Honorable Minister, partners, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
We all share a common vision of a “Clean Maldives” and have assembled today to deliberate on how to achieve this. The burning of waste is a major challenge and various studies point out that 1 out of 3 people around the world dump or burn their waste due to lack of greener alternatives. This creates significant carbon emissions and has negative health impacts.
Sustainable Waste Management is a cost-effective solution to address this problem and was also discussed very widely at the COP26 meeting in Glasgow last month. However, we must recognize that it’s easier said than done.
We all also have a shared aim to help the Maldives build back better from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic. Key to this is the country’s Tourism and Fisheries sectors. Both of these sectors depend on a thriving terrestrial and marine ecosystem that can flourish in the face of ever-increasing human-induced pressures. For these sectors to thrive, adopting sustainable waste management practices is not simply an option, it’s an imperative.
The World Bank has been a partner for the Government of Maldives in the waste management sector. This is exemplified by the support provided for some foundational work in the earliest stages of the Maldives Environmental Management Project (MEMP), which closed in 2016. Important lessons from this project were used to conceptualise and design the current Maldives Clean Environment Project (MCEP).
For any initiative to succeed, it is important that ownership of assets, operations, and knowledge is transferred to the people; in this case, the Maldivian people. This goes a long way in ensuring the sustainability of any intervention. Maldives is on its way to building an efficient cadre of waste management professionals who can shoulder this responsibility along with the government, and act as partners and equal stakeholders in the sector. This is very promising indeed.
The waste management sector involves a wide range of stakeholders, including NGOs, civil society, the government, and the private sector. The private sector is generally responsible for bringing in international technical skills which gradually builds up local capacity. This implies that innovative Public Private Partnerships can be further leveraged to scale up and improve waste management systems in Maldives.
To achieve our shared goals, we have to ensure that there is sufficient upfront planning, convergence of efforts, and continuous collaboration between international donors and the Government of Maldives. We must also ensure to address most critical funding gaps so a cost-effective plan can be followed.
It is critical to have a well-articulated and consistent strategy, policy and planning framework in place at the earliest stage possible so investments made will respond in a consistent way given the inter-connections of different waste streams across the country.
I would like to commend the Ministry of Environment and Tourism for two important waste-related updates in the regulations – one in August this year on source separation of waste, and a second in November to harmonize requirements for the treatment of food and organic wastes between inhabited islands and resorts.
There are no quick fixes or standard solutions to such complex problems. We have to be constantly innovating and keep adapting and responding to dynamic issues and evolving challenges. Private enterprise and entrepreneurs must be brought to the forefront in this effort, as they bring in the much-needed industry and innovation, which is paramount in tackling the war on waste. The resorts and the tourism industry need to be equally engaged as their numbers are equal to and even exceed inhabited islands in some Atolls. We shall also work towards strengthening the decision-making processes and finding sustainable solutions for the county’s waste management issues.
I would like to once again recognize the importance of today’s meeting as we strive to carve out a common roadmap to ensure that all of our efforts culminate in successful management of waste in the Maldives.
Thank you all.