Soneva Leads the Way for a More Sustainable Maldives

Soneva’s Namoona Baa initiative with Maldivian governments has led to Maalhos becoming the first Maldivian island to stop open burning

Aerial beach view, Maldives
Aerial beach view, Maldives

In partnership with Common Seas, an international NGO dedicated to reducing marine plastic pollution, Soneva and island council presidents have pledged to reduce the waste produced in the Baa Atoll for a more sustainable Maldives.

Each island in the Namoona Baa initiative will create an ‘eco-centro’ waste-to-wealth centre that will sort, recycle and reuse island waste in an effort to end the practice of the open burning of waste. This is modelled on the Soneva resort practice of recycling 90 per cent of food and organic waste, metals, plastics and bottles. The eco-centre on Maalhos has already enabled the island to completely stop the open burning of rubbish and waste.

In February, Parliamentary Speaker Mohamed Nasheed and Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh took part in a friendly cricket match celebrating this step towards a more eco-friendly and sustainable Maldives. Speaking at the dinner that followed, Nasheed said: “What we have brought to our islands in the course of building a life, has taken us over – waste has taken over our reefs, beaches and islands. This waste is now a curse.”

Central to the Namoona Baa initiative is the reduction in the volume of plastics arriving to the island nation. This effort is supported by the establishment of a water treatment plant that desalinates and mineralises sea water, bottling the beverage in reusable glass containers.

“The eco-centro is a revolution for Maalhos,” noted island council president, Abdulla Shujau. “After 20 years, we have turned our dump yard into a proper waste centre.”

The waste reduction program is fostered on a sense of love for the ocean and local environment. Soneva is nurturing a new generation of environmental stewards, enabling the Maldivian islands to “produce wealth from its waste,” as stated by Soneva CEO and co-founder, Sonu Shivdasani.

Dealing with waste, particularly plastic, is a major issue for every island community in the Maldives. Plastic bottles and bags tend to litter streets, island jungles and beaches, while waste is routinely burned in toxic, open bonfires. Human health and guesthouse tourism suffer as a direct result of this practice.

Under the Namoona Baa Initiative, the Maalhos model will be expanded to neighbouring Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo, with eco-centro waste-to-wealth centres established on both islands later this year. With government support, it is hoped that the model can be rolled out across the Baa Atoll and eventually the whole of the Maldives. A nationwide phase-out of single-use plastics in the Maldives is expected by 2023.

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