Thilafushi: the island that has become a floating dump

Since 1992, the homonymous lagoon on which the island was built has been transformed into a floating landfill to address the growing problem of the disposal of waste produced by the tourism industry

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Thilafushi: the island that has become a floating dump

The Maldives are not just crystal clear sea and white sand, breathtaking landscapes and lush nature. No, there are also corners of this paradise polluted by the hand of man. Thilafushi is one of the islands that is part of the largest atoll of Kaafu just 7 km from the capital Male.

Since 1992, the homonymous lagoon on which the island was built has been transformed into a floating landfill to address the growing problem of the disposal of waste produced by the tourism industry. So much so that Thilafushi has become the largest waste island in the world in just a few years.

In 2005 it was estimated that 31,000 truckloads of garbage are transported to Thilafushi annually, where it is dumped in large piles and eventually used to reclaim land and increase the size of the island. After reports of illegal dumping surfaced, management was transferred to Malé City Council to clear up confusion to who could be responsible for the waste.

The council signed a contract in 2011 with the Indian-based company, Tatva Global Renewable Energy to rehabilitate the island and manage the waste problem. Environmentalists say that more than 330 tonnes of rubbish is brought to Thilafushi a day, most of which comes from Malé.

In 2005 it was estimated that 31,000 truckloads of garbage are transported to Thilafushi annually, where it is dumped in large piles and eventually used to reclaim land and increase the size of the island. So much is being deposited that the island is growing at a rate of one square meter per day.

Maldives

The archipelago is made up of 1,192 coral islands resting on bases of limestone and coral, formed with periodic evolutions and characterized by multiple layers of limestone and corals formed with the numerous variations in water level starting from about 60 million years ago, following of the emergence of towering mountains from the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

The atolls of the Maldivian archipelago are indeed among the most evident traces of the volcanic activity of the Réunion hotspot, a hotspot currently located under the island of Réunion, in the Mascarene Islands archipelago.

There are 26 natural atolls, each made up of several hundred islands, of which only some are inhabited. In the entire archipelago, the inhabited islands are about 200, while just over 100 are used as tourist villages; the rest are deserted and sometimes consist only of an emerging sand bank.

The largest island is Fua Mulaku, located in the Gnaviyani atoll, in the south of the archipelago. The island resort of Bathala, taken from a pier. To the right of the beach the coral reef is clearly visible, in this case very close to the shoreline.

The islands are located both within the atolls and along the ocean barrier that delimits the atoll separating it from the deep ocean waters and protecting the inland waters from storm surges. The oceanic barriers are interrupted by channels called pass (kandu in dhivehi) which allow the exchange of the internal waters of the atoll, however causing strong currents in and out, especially during the tides. In addition to that, almost all of the islands are surrounded by their own coral reef which encloses a lagoon.