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Making Male’ a Liveable City - The way you define 'home' affects how you care for your home environment

Despite its liveliness and vibrant energy, the residents of Male’ face challenges that affect their liveability. One pressing issue that surfaces every now and then is municipal waste management.

21 May 2024, MVT 11:35
Garbage on Male' streets.-- Photo: Mihaaru
21 May 2024, MVT 11:35

The bustling capital city of Maldives, Male’, is home to one-third of the country’s population.

According to the most recent census, Male’ has a resident population of approximately 153,904 persons, with a population density of 748.8.

Despite its liveliness and vibrant energy, the residents of Male’ face challenges that affect their liveability. One pressing issue that surfaces every now and then is municipal waste management. According to the Asian Development Bank, the Greater Male’ Region produces a staggering 800 tons of municipal waste every day.

From time to time, there have been teamed-up efforts to clean blocks of Male’. On the 3rd and 4th of May, WAMCO teamed up with MPL, Ministry of Cities, Local Government and Public Works, Maldives Police Service and Male’ City Council for a cleanup drive at the Industrial Village. And last week, WAMCO dropped the price for waste transfer services in the Greater Male’ Area with the pick-up charge decreasing to MVR 500 and the gate fee completely waived to streamline waste management processes and enhance accessibility to waste transfer facilities.

Not too long ago, in the days leading up to Ramadan, we witnessed an increasing level of waste disposal on roads. In a post on X, the mayor of Male’ City Council said that on 13th March, there were 42.15 tonnes of waste collected by the municipal staff and 18 days prior to that, there were 305.65 tonnes of waste collected by the municipal staff of the Council. He also went on to explain that this trash could be put into 12 containers 25ft in width.

Challenges in establishing a proper waste collection mechanism exist. However, it is just one aspect of the broader challenge.

In this congested urban lifestyle, home is often defined by the 12 by 12 sqft rooms, or if lucky a small apartment of less than 400 sqft. For many reasons and through many years, we have developed a very individualistic mindset where our definition of home confines to these limited spaces. This narrow definition undoubtedly has consequences on how we treat our home environment.

The lack of communal spirit exacerbates the problem. Instead of viewing Male’ as a shared space to be cared for collectively, through our individualistic mindset, we have given up on some of the principles that we were so fond of, including the communal spirit of cleaning, decorating and making the larger community a 'home’. It has now come to the point that some of us are fine to dump trash on the walkways and doorsteps of others because it is not acceptable for us to leave it in our backyard, or more so because we do not have a backyard.

In contrast, the outer islands have a different perspective. Regardless of the weakened social fabric in many parts of the country, children in many outer islands still freely roam and play outdoors. In addition, although some communal activities are formalized, many are still deeply ingrained in daily life, which leads to promoting a culture of shared responsibility and respect for one’s surroundings.

We are not alone when it comes to the problems of urbanization. In many other parts of the world, there are similar measures in place to address the issue. It was reported on local news sometime back that Male’ City Council asked assistance from the public to identify and report persons disposing of waste in communal spaces. Moreover, fines are imposed and leniency in the process of disposing of waste is in effect. Perhaps, with the continuation of this, what needs to be emphasized is public education and awareness in an effort to promote empathy and consideration for the neighbour while instilling values of minimalism and collective responsibility for our shared environment.

With the heavy winds and substantial rainfall that we are experiencing at present, it is crucial to manage our waste to prevent harm. While there is a need to reduce, reuse and recycle to adopt a greener lifestyle, it also aids those who collect our trash. Maybe it is in our minds that the concept of home and how we care for it needs to be expanded to the larger community, in a more communal spirit that would bring a difference.

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