“Take only pictures, leave only footprints” does not apply at a luxury destination level. The more luxurious a destination the more abundantly it throws out garbage.
Its thrown out as construction waste during the development stage. Its thrown out as operational waste when the resort starts catering to visitors. Being ‘eco’ or ‘green’ helps minimize waste but does not remove it entirely.
With the UNWTO predicting tourism growth the question is: Where does all the garbage go if a destination’s environment management cannot cope? It’s not just the Maldives. The same problem exists in Bali.
More than 330 tonnes of rubbish is brought to Thilafushi a day. Most of it comes from Malé, which is one of the world’s most densely populated towns: 100,000 people cram into 2 square kilometres.
Every tourist produces 3.5kg of rubbish and requires 500 litres of water a day.
5-Star Environment Management?
If a destination can support luxury resorts why can’t it also support environmental best practices? Do resorts touting ‘green’ care about what happens to their garbage after its been disposed.
The good news in the Maldives is the collected garbage ends up in one place and not in the open sea. What can be recycled is shipped out. However, there’s still a lot that ends up in the landfill.
Some Development Questions
At the planning level: “How long more will the landfill capacity last and what options next?”
At the engineering level: “Does garbage ‘juice’ leach into the ground?”
At finance its: “Has the cost of providing a pristine outer-island resort environment in a land scarce country been effectively priced?” and “What’s the cost of alternative options compared to an ever expanding landfill?”
Images: Hani Amir, Elin Hoyland