With the majority of its islands barely a few feet above sea level, the Maldives is the world’s lowest-lying country. Most of the nation’s population won’t be able to live there by 2050 because, according to NASA, 80% of the country’s 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean will be inundated in seawater.
But this is not the only issue the country is now dealing with. People worldwide visit the Maldives because of its beautiful beaches and locations.
Over 1.7 million visitors visited the Maldives annually before the outbreak. While the number decreased after the pandemic crippled the tourism industry, the movement is slowly gaining pace now that most countries have nearly thwarted the pandemic.
Due to a large number of visitors, the nation must deal with problems with inappropriate trash disposal. The Maldives tourist authority has repeatedly urged individuals to be responsible for the disposal of non-biodegradable waste.
However, it is insufficient to eliminate cases of inappropriate trash disposal.
The country’s abundant corals have suffered as a result. The treasure is particularly significant to the Maldives since it shapes their national identity.
But when scientists conducted a study of the region in 2016, they found that more than 60% of the Maldives’ pristine reefs were affected by coral bleaching caused by climate change.
“A large draw for tourism is the healthy ocean environment that visitors come to see. Clearly, this type of environment must be preserved in order to continue attracting high-spending tourism,” stated James Ellsmoor, the CEO of Island Innovation.
Tourism, a paradox
The Maldives’ economy is mostly growing due to the tourist industry. Frequent tourist visits encourage local enterprises, which thrive primarily on delivering and selling products and services.
Simply put, the tourist industry is extremely important to the 540,000 residents of the Maldives.
However, the tourism industry is held accountable for environmental harm.
For example, resorts in the Maldives utilize a lot of energy annually to serve their millions of visitors. Therefore, an excessive amount of waste is being released into the environment.
Therefore, the 150+ resorts in the country are urged to “go green” in order to protect the environment.
“The high cost of importing fuel to power noisy, polluting generators simply does not make sense when compared to the much lower cost of solar, wind and battery storage,” Ellsmoor said.
In response to this situation, the Maldives government announced its efforts to save the environment, striving to become a carbon-neutral nation by 2030.
As a result, all single-use plastics should be prohibited in the Maldives starting next year.
Thankfully, Maldivian resorts have taken up the cause and are leading the charge to achieve sustainability, offering the same high level of luxury service while safeguarding the environment.
Resorts are taking the helm
Up until now, little attention has been paid to waste in the Maldives. This is because the vast amounts of waste dumped into the environment over a long period were mostly caused by the tourism industry.
But a number of resorts and institutions have stepped up in response to recent appeals to protect the Maldives’ future.
Soneva Resorts, for instance, introduced its Eco Centro program. The project collects the resort’s trash and recycles about 90% of it.
Additionally, Soneva Resorts is the driving force behind Makers’ Place, which enables people to reinvent recycling and include art into it, producing marketable art and items like wall tiles and glassware.
This year saw the launch of Fairmont Maldives’ Sustainability Lab. The facility would collect plastics discovered on the resort property and those nearby, then modify the plastic for trade.
Maldivians who participate in the program develop their artistic talents, generate income, and preserve the environment.
The management of Fairmont Maldives says its goal is to become the “first zero-waste-generating resort in the country.”
“(We are) encouraging the next generation to care passionately about protecting the ecosystem and marine life that inhabits it,” said Sam Dixon, the company’s manager and resident marine biologist.
Photo Credit: Parley Maldives