'Toxic bomb' Ticks on Maldives Trash Island: Page 2

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A Bangladeshi immigrant works continuously to keep garbage burning on Thilafushi Island, Maldives.
Charlie Mahoney/Corbis

As he speaks, waves lap at the edge of the dump which has been expanding steadily into the sea since 1993 and upwards -- forming one of the highest points in the whole country, 80 percent of which is less than a metre above sea level.

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He cites government figures showing visitors to the Maldives created on average 7.2 kilograms of waste per day, compared with 2.8 kilograms for residents of Male, which make up a third of the 350,000-strong population.

Tourists, at nearly a million last year, outnumber locals by a ratio of about three-to-one.

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Open burning

Local authorities plan to stop the toxic open burning on the island and the private operator of the site, finally set to start work after a five-year delay, will build an incinerator.

Better waste management in the capital Male through door-to-door collection and recycling will also help to reduce environmental damage, says a city councillor from the capital, Ahmed Kareem.

"The project that is going ahead will monitor air pollution and also the sea pollution near Thilafushi Island and so no further expansion by waste will be done for Thilafushi," Kareem told AFP.

The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry declined repeated interview requests from AFP seeking comment on efforts of resorts to reduce their environmental impact.

Site manager Islam is hopeful he will get new machinery allowing them to move waste more easily and sort it. Rows of broken diggers and bulldozers sit nearby in a vehicle graveyard.

Behind him as he talks stands a row of palm trees discarded by a hotel resort which were planted in an incongruous attempt to beautify a place of toxic smoke clouds and buzzing swarms of flies.

The trunks are blackened and the leaves are missing.

"They died," Islam smiles.

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