Waste processing

Guests are as human as ourselves and their curiosity is mostly satisfied by explanations and demonstrations. In a typical small all contained resort, the guests would normally want to know how the resort ticks and goes its daily life. Sometimes we take the guests to our industrial areas (staff side) of the resorts to show them what happens when their room’s toilet is flushed… 🙂

An intricate network of pipes take whatever was flushed to a processing plant (its mandatory in all resorts) where the ‘products’ get processed and where ultimately waste and water get separated. The processed water is then fed to another network of pipes for supplying water for gardening and to refill the flush tank. The environmentally friendly way of course. Most guests are impressed and appreciate the system.

Also there are wide array of waste processing plants across the country in many resorts. Some plants use biological processes to do the job, whilst other (most) plants use mechanical/kinetic systems.

However what is sadly lacking in the industry at present is proper mechanisms to check and get resorts to stick to stringent rules to operate these systems so that in case the system or plant shuts down, all the sludge is not automatically diverted to the lagoon and surrounding sea unbeknownst to anyone save a few. Such practices do occur but considering the fragile natural environment around resort islands, its an unforgivable act which is little known or cared about an issue. The sludge from waste treatment plants contain all known and unknown forms of toxins and strong chemicals which if pumped to the sea and lagoon can do lasting damage to corals and such marine life which will take years to recover.

Big waves affecting the country

Big tidal waves are pounding the country and there are reports of considerable damage in northern atolls. Its not unusual for tidal waves to show some ‘muscle’ once every year, however this year the show of strength seems to be stronger. The weather forecasters predict 3 days of rough weather before the systems calm down.

How to cool down

Recent clashes by the “Reds” on the issue of Power bills shall have raised the issue of global warming which fortunately it didn’t. It need not have been global warming but the Met Office is saying that power bills for March were pushed high by hot weather conditions and that every year in March, the country is sweltering in heat which is why the power bills sky rocketed. One easy way to counter this heat which has never been mentioned by the authorities as they frantically sought to appease the Reds with explanations of the status of many wind-farm projects the country is undertaking to go on target to become emission free in 10 years time, is planting more trees.

Planting trees were normally done by NGO’s and the past government under various names such as the “Million Tree Project” etc and had those projects any merit except to play PR to media, the trees shall have been grown big now and greenery once again brought to overcrowded islands like Male’, Naifaru, Komandoo, etc. Planting trees in the road side has helped Male’ immensely and Addu, but still more needs to be done. Also if fruit bearing trees were planted such as mangoes and jack-fruits, bread fruits trees, it would have been better and there would have been more public participation.

Stone walling the house

Traditions has it, that as soon as a person gets a plot of land to build a house, he or she will erect the ‘wall’ of his house which is like marking his official boundary to the outside world. So the first steps to build a house is directed at demarcation of boundary. This maybe because we are territorial creatures by nature, but also by the need to safeguard and secure the place we call home. Whatever the justifications, the fact of the matter is that building the inevitable stonewall is an unnecessary drain on the environment as well as the funds needed to build the house in the first place. This drain over the years ruined many a historical place we had as those places were destroyed and the stones removed to make walls for houses etc, and of course the all too evident effects on environment. The issue of walls has been neglected by the authorities even now because there is lack of awareness as to the detrimental effects of to the environment and alternative means to achieve what a stone wall might be used to achieve.

For a fraction of the cost to erect an unsightly, unnecessary, unwieldy stone wall, a better alternative which provides the same security and aesthetically and environmentally friendliness is a hedge. Plants can be used with little effort to construct a hedge which is an ideal solution for islands as the plots are bigger.

However for people to embrace the hedges and destroy their stone walls, there are steps the authorities will need to take which they do not seem to be aware at the moment.

Hedges are ideal places for mosquitoes to loiter around so the authorities should in theory propose a solution for the mosquitoes problem. Vandalism and burglary issues are also issues which left as it is a non-starter for the people to dismantle their beloved stone walls. Historically our armed forces were there to protect the president and the elite and currently they seem to be engaged in some war efforts with a phantom army of aliens few knows about, while the gangs thrive unchecked in the capital Male’ and other islands. Once our armed forces can take care of these gangs, the island planning committees can spring up and start promoting the idea of flowering hedges, and fences for gardens instead of ugly concrete and stone walls barricading every house.

Using staff as window dressing..

Some common practices such as  signing of contracts between two companies etc are associated with archaic practices which nobody seems to be bothered about. The pic above shows the ceremony of signing security contracts between defense ministry and airports company attended to by two female employees one of whom is evidently irritated to have been called on to wait on the gentlemen signing whatever they signed. Usually what will happen is the two gentlemen will sign all the pages on both of those folders and the “employees-in-waiting” will take those folders somewhere inside the office and disappear. The gentlemen will rise from their seats with big smiles on their faces and shake hands for the camera following some little speech about how they expect to be happy with the arrangements. Now the question is what is the big need of using two female employees unnecessarily to wait on them for the occasion? The gentlemen appears to be perfectly healthy and the folders and papers do not seem to be excessively heavy.. so why cannot they keep the folders on the table till the ceremony ends and take the folders inside the office themselves when the media and everyone is gone? In this new labour ruled times, it certainly makes sense to lessen the amount of time staff are retained in office without work to ease pressure on the budget to which the president has already called for a couple of times. Also imagine the unnecessary preparations those female employees would have to go through knowing their picture will be captured in the media.. Things like cosmetics are of course a drain on earths scares resources but how much of those will be used for the fluke of a moment thing?

Short of condemning this archaic practice, we at the Maldivesresortworkers call upon the employers to refrain from such excessive aggrandizement of their work and to respect the workers as fellow human beings. The workers are there not as a “garnish” or as a window-dressing… The workers are also fellow human beings who expects rational works be assigned to them. We also ask the employers to respect gender equality and not to use female employees as waiting girls for their little ceremonies.

Beach Cleaning

Resort islands basically are of two types when it comes to the beach. There are the natural beauties and those who can use a little bit of “makeup” to call itself a resort. Resorts like Baros, Angaga, Dhonimigili, Holiday island, Ihuru are true natural beauties where the real meaning of the description “powdery white sand” stands. Resorts like Ellaidhoo, Gangehi, kuda rah, lily beach, Moofushi on the other hand are protected by a concrete ring of sea wall which looks terrible from above the island but ok on close up. Our “resorts page” has an aerial picture of most resorts and is a good guide to beach conditions of a resort from above the island.

One thing the “natural islands” will not have to worry about is sweeping the beach for “akiri” or corals once in a while, which is a pain for those who undertake to this task on less fortunate islands. Most resorts do employ the general laborer force for such works but with the belt tightening process of recent times, its not uncommon for the whole resort team to be called up to clean the beach.

Beach cleaning is physically demanding work and with the blazing sun overhead, perspiration levels rising all the time, the personal preparations for appearing agreeable is ruined after a one hour’s stint. For staff who are in contact with guests, a one hour stint of beach cleaning is followed by another one hour of rest to freshen up and return to the camp.. on the double..

For islands requiring “Make-up”, it is required to dredge sand once every few weeks to compensate for the loss of fine sand by the waves. This is carried out by electric powered submersible pumps which may or may not be supported by a floating platform equipped with a sound-proofed generator. In some islands this process is carried out in precarious situations with empty barrels bound to make a makeshift platform to support the weight of the apparatus to lower the pump and the operators aloft. Pumping alone is an option for lagoons which does not have much gravel or corals contained but where the conditions are different, filtering the discharged sand with sieves are the better choice. Most resorts cannot handle big machinery for these processes although there are some resorts which have had their complete beach sieved by mechanical sieve machines when the resort was being build.

The environmental effects of sand dredging are indeed harmful to the corals if the water and sand pumped out into the beach are not contained properly. Left unconstrained, fine sediments which are scooped from seabed by the pump float to large areas of lagoon killing growing corals.

Poaching in resort lagoon

pirates of the maldives...?

Poaching or rather fishing very close to the house reef of a resort property is a contentious issue which is dealt with differently in different resorts. There appears to be no law or regulation on this issue except the resort can chase away the poachers with their high speed boats powered with outboard engines, given that the resort is aware that its a problem in the first place. With the ever great need for guests for absolute privacy, rooms built on the ocean side of the island maybe the ideal private rooms which is all but open to the ocean giving panoramic views. There are many resorts built with this format and the room types and constituency of beach houses and ocean houses are determined by the geology of the island. Such ocean houses offer good privacy on the land side but is bare on the other side which is especially bad if the ocean side is on an established route of sea traffic.

Tourism and Fisheries are in totally opposite sides of the interests table such as the gun and peace lobby of USA. Tourism here in our country relies on presenting the beauty of nature, natural fauna and flora to guests while fisheries is about taking out these very same resources from nature and present it to hungry mouths elsewhere to be eaten! Its also quite difficult to debate on the merits and demerits of the situation as both sectors can wreck the high ground other will claim on variety of issues and all sorts of emotive genies will escape the bottle as the debate continues.

The best way to deal about this problem with lack of judicial protection would be for resorts to adopt the corporate social responsibility thing to a little more practical level. This could be done by showing the neighbouring villagers the positive side of having a rich neighbour as a resort and how important it is to keep relationship amicable. An annual photo-shoot with island kids and resort executives “island cleaning” will simply not do the magic nowadays. There are some resorts who have successfully done this “catching up with neighbours” such as Naide which recently opened up a small training facility in their resort to recruit apprentices from neighbouring islands.

Ultimately the source of these social problems of the country stems from unemployment which makes an already hopeless people do reckless things which in turn comes to affect the main bread earner (tourism) of the country.

hurdles for city hotel tourism

Tourism in Maldives have come a long way from the days of spear wielding “environmental- terrorist” kind of pioneer days. That was a time when our government was not decided about the merit of tourism and every one was kind of like taking a wait and see kind of approach. About 3 decades back there were no such worries as pollution, stress on corals and marine life as is today with mass tourism in full swing.

Cutting a long story short, the change of the regime from Maumoon to Anni was a long awaited much anticipated move which brought with more expectations as is generally the case. With new faces in the government, a drastically changed political system, there arose the problem of finance which is needed to implement more services to the country. Every political party when assuming leadership will want to preserve their position come the next election. However the state of finance was in a precarious situation when the actual handover began and the present government had to find more ways to generate the required finances. To complicate the problem the Peoples Majlis was dominated by the opposition which is still out there just to make life as miserable for the government as possible. Of the first bills sent to Majlis to debate upon were the bills on taxation which if implemented would have been a third avenue of income for the government besides tourism and fisheries. However party politics killed hopes of that bill which is still lying dormant in the Malis waiting to be debated. This led the government to contemplate on more ways to benefit from tourism which is where the city hotel business ideas come from. Tourism in Maldives is very unique in the sense typically a whole hotel or resort is situated in one island complete with staff, utilities and everything. In theory there should be about 1000 islands where resorts can be developed as roughly 200 islands are inhabited. However the vast majority of these islands are still there unproductive for various far too many reasons only waiting to be utilized.

The idea of city hotels in inhabited islands recently came to public debate with the decision by the government to allow liquor licenses to these city hotels which is strongly criticized by the locals and the government has been forced to reconsider the decision. Its also worth noting that there are only a handful of these city hotels in Male’ and are primarily used for the business and diplomatic type of clients who would rather mind their ‘business’ than be pampered in an idyllic beach… which normally costs lots and lots of money in Maldives. Also for the ‘city hotel’ type of business to flourish in earnest there needs more to it than the sense of hopelessness by the government which seems to be the case at the moment. For such a model to work, there shall be an efficient transport network as our islands are rather small and can bore guests with a handful of landmarks in Male’ etc. Where there is lack of landmarks it shall be corrected with constructing landmarks and where there is lack of history, context has to be built for such issues which hopefully will help alleviate the void of city hotel tourism in the country. Currently apart from a few renown cemeteries there are no landmarks in Male to be shown and even the written and known histories of those places are little known and much less researched than shall have been.

Ban the anchor

underwater beauty

With the exception of a handful city hotels, all our resorts have a reef for guests to dive in and to explore the beauty of corals and marine life. However for lack of awareness and ‘lawlessness’, we are sacrificing a big amount of our natural underwater beauty everyday to carelessly thrown anchors to fleets of speed boats, supply dhonis etc from each resort everyday all year round. Although divers and water sports people have been clamoring for these issues they appears not to have their voice heard where hearing matters. The problem is compounded by the fact that some of our resorts treat these issues just another small issue on the side rather than an integral and big issue. Coral reefs being as delicate they are, any amount of damage to the reef will take years and decades to recover if at all. Legislating is a solution with a concentrated drive to upgrade mooring facilities and arrangements in resorts with standards applicable to all resorts.

What will we get from Copenhagen?

Zilch is the short answer.

The world and its media is busy in Copenhagen following the the leaders and their agendas and our president has not tarried back. The summit to seal the world’s fate is going on full swing and looking back from a safe distance one gets the feeling that at last humans are taking over the destiny of the planet. So far the responsibility has been with god or nature for the godless.

Our papers (the few that has survived the former regime) reported that the president has not forgotten the few skeptics of this global warming scam and he has a very short message for skeptics. 350. A true numerical message no skeptic could be persuaded to global warming optimism. Such numerical messages had its day and its probably gone now. Y2K was the best such example which was exposed later as a bunch of lies and deceptions which profitted immensely those who promoted it.

Coming back to the topic one wonders what will we in Maldives get from Copenhagen? Every country is represented there for a purpose and everyone expects something back from the signatures and documents coming out of the summit. Our chance of actually getting something from Copenhagen are questionable. For sure we will get some recognition as a sinking hopeless country which according to an economic themed blog is bad news for our country because foreign investors are already being scared by the apocalyptic version of our country the media is painting. There might be other helps such as a few more radio buoys to monitor sea level rise and a few more weather balloons to attach more equipment to monitor parts per million of carbon particles to our Met Office and a few visits by distinguished global warming scaremongers (maybe Al Gore?) and that seems to be the direction we are heading. Gone are the days of big rich countries pouring money to small less developed countries apparently for no reason. Now every bit of aid is connected and given in condition of something.

Catching fish resort style…

Catching fish by bare hands is not an everyday experience especially if the fish is tuna but occasionally the unexpected happens… What you see is a staff in Anantara Veli hurling a tuna fish (frigate tuna) on to beach from a school of tuna which had entered the shallows around the island and was trying to fly on to beach. The pic was shot in the evening from a mobile phone camera.

The school of fish probably several thousands in number came in to the shallows a day earlier been chased by prey such as sharks and since has been trapped by a navigation error which was a chance to fish on the beach for staff and guests in pure resort style…

The school of fish has since found its way out to the sea after “woving” the guests and giving everyone memories of a life time. Moments like these are few and far between in resort life but are the things which make resort life fun and worthwhile.