This year tourism officials expect one million visitors to flock to the low-lying island resorts in the Maldives: home of the luxury all-inclusive break, sparkling white beaches and endless turquoise waters.
But paradise here isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Booming tourism may be driving the economy in the Indian Ocean archipelago, but there’s a price to pay: an estimated 300 tonnes of waste produced by the tourist resorts each day is being offloaded on an artificial island that’s piled so high with rubbish and toxic materials, it poses ecological and health risks.
Thilafushi island –which you definitely won’t find in a guidebook – is where the Maldives dumps all its rubbish.
Built near the capital, Malé in the early 90s to handle the population’s waste, Thilafushi or ‘Rubbish Island’ as it’s also known, is now overwhelmed by rubbish.
It now comes mostly from luxury resorts – which reportedly don’t follow the rules on crushing their waste.
The island is also the only dumping ground for the Maldives’s 350,000 strong population.
With no industrial incinerators available, the Maldivians have no way to control their waste problem.
Most discarded materials are buried, while others are burnt out in the open air, producing smog and thick (often toxic) smoke. Environmental groups are naturally concerned.
The BBC’S Simon Reeve recently visited Thilafushi Island and described what he saw as “gobsmacking”.
His video report (below) highlights the scale of the problem of unmanaged waste, and the concerns about used batteries, lead, oil and other potentially hazardous waste spilling into the island’s lagoon.