Speaking on behalf of luxury resorts in Maldives, the Maldives Association of Tourism Industries (MATI), made a statement on Monday, claiming that the properties were unable to put a sudden stop to the practice of discarding waste into the ocean.
According to the association, resorts discard food waste and other organic material in complete adherence to regulations formulated specifically for the tourism industry by the Ministry of Environment.
However, environmentalists have long reported practices otherwise, and it should be noted, being that food waste is primarily sourced from land, such rubbish is often not suited for dumping into the midst of a marine ecosystem.
MATI's assertions were made during a session held by the Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Climate Change to address the issue of marine pollution perpetrated by resorts.
Representatives from the environment ministry, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Waste Management Corporation (WAMCO) were also in attendance.
Addressing the parliamentary gathering, MATI Secretary General Ahmed Nazeer iterated MATI's stance that such practices are difficult to stop on short notice.
In particular, Nazeer highlighted the challenges for liveaboards, which conduct tours for one-to two-week durations, during which they cannot stop at islands for waste disposal purposes.
However, such safaris travel typically along what is known as the Male-Vaavu-Ari Atoll circuit which boasts numerous inhabited islands in addition to the most sought after dive spots. Hence, liveaboards are known to frequently dock at islands for picnics, tours and to replenish supplies.
Nazeer then went on to state that a sudden amendment of regulations and imposition of fines would pose the risk of bankruptcy for numerous liveaboard operators.
On that note, Nazeer expressed MATI's support for granting a 30-day period following state facilitation of waste disposal, prior to imposing the ban on marine pollution. He added his belief that other stakeholders from the tourism industry would support such a measure.
MATI Environment consultant Abdul Azeez Abdul Hakeem asserted that the disposal of organic waste could only be curbed through the provision of waste management facilities across the country.
In this regard, Hakeem highlighted the necessity of operationalising the waste management facility in Vandhoo, Raa Atoll and establishing a similar facility in the southern region of Maldives.
He also stated that another aspect of addressing the issue would involve equipping waste management services with marine vessels.
Responding to the concerns, the environment ministry representatives disclosed that plans were already underway to establish such waste management facilities in several locations across Maldives.
Meanwhile, Parliament Representative for Maafannu-Central constituency, Ibrahim Rasheed (Bondey), fired back at MATI's sentiments via Twitter, stating that resort managements often pledged to implement a multitude of waste disposal strategies throughout the process to secure bids.
Asserting that such documentation remained with the environment ministry, the parliamentarian warned that the government could impose fines or shut down resorts if necessary.
Speaking to local media outlet Mihaaru, he revealed that the session was convened after reports of a large volume of marine pollutants in the lagoon of Maafushi, Kaafu Atoll, an island with numerous guesthouses.
Chair of the parliamentary committee on environment and representative for Hoarafushi constituency Ahmed Saleem stated that the disposal of organic waste was permitted under the law at a time when only a few resorts were operating in Maldives.
He went on to express the likelihood that the proliferation of resorts and the subsequent increase in occupancy rates had outpaced the natural environments capacity to break down the waste being disposed in the ocean.
While the issue has prompted discourse in Maldivian social media circles, several have lambasted the state over inaction.
Although the incumbent has made various pledges to tackle imminent threats to the environment, local NGOs, movements and advocates have accused the government of failing to 'walk the talk' and live up to electoral pledges made with respect to sustainable development and halting environmental degradation.