Soneva the world-leading resort operator, announces the official launch of its Namoona Baa initiative with the unveiling of the ‘eco-centro’ complex on the island of Maalhos, Maldives. Maalhos, Dharavandhoo, and Kihaadhoo islands in the Baa Atoll have pledged to end the open burning of island waste, in a radical shift towards eco-friendly waste management. The pledge was made by the Presidents of island councils of Maalhos, Dharavandhoo, and Kihaadhoo, during a workshop on waste held at Soneva Fushi on January 5-8, 2019.
Harbhajan Singh seen with Maldivian Parliamentary Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, Sonu & Eva Shivdasani at Soneva
To end the practice of the open burning of waste, which poses a health and environmental hazard and damages tourism, each island will create an ‘eco-centro’ waste-to-
Soneva has pledged funds from its Soneva Save our Seas programme to support the creation of the eco-centros on Maalhos, Dharavandhoo, and Kihaadhoo. During the January workshop, the island council presidents helped forge a new partnership between their islands, Soneva Fushi, and Common Seas, an international NGO dedicated to reducing marine plastic pollution.
The new partnership – part of the international Clean Blue Alliance which supports islands to prevent plastic waste leaking into the ocean – sets a course for Baa Atoll, and eventually the Maldives, to become a global leader in halting ocean plastic pollution.
As part of the inauguration of the Maalhos eco-centro, a friendly cricket match took place on the island. Maldivian Parliament Speaker, President Mohamed Nasheed, played a game of cricket yesterday afternoon alongside former Indian international cricketer Harbhajan Singh, and a number of Maldivian cabinet ministers and officials. The match helped showcase a new recreational area created on the island, which had previously been the site of a rubbish dump. The area has since been transformed into a recreational area under the Namoona Baa initiative.
Speaking at the new Maalhos recreational area, President 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.”
Maalhos island Council President, Abdulla Shujau said, “The eco-centro is a revolution for Maalhos. After 20 years, we have turned our dump yard into a proper waste centre.”
Prior to playing cricket, President Nasheed, the Maalhos island council president Abdulla Shujau, and Soneva CEO and Co-founder Sonu Shivdasani officially inaugurated the Maalhos eco-centro waste-to-wealth centre – an innovative, waste processing complex modelled on Soneva Fushi’s eco-centro. The new eco-centro has enabled Maalhos to completely stop the open burning of rubbish and waste – making it the first inhabited island in the Maldives to do so.
President Nasheed also viewed a photo exhibition highlighting the different components of Namoona Baa, including the local school’s ‘zero-waste’ recycling challenge, surf lessons and tournaments involving local women and girls, and the island’s drinking water plant, Soneva Water, which provides 80 per cent of households with drinking water in reusable bottles, eliminating the need for single-use plastic bottles.
“Maalhos can now produce wealth from its waste. This is just the beginning; and we will roll out the eco-centros to Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo this year, and working with the government hopefully to extend the project to the whole of Baa Atoll – making it truly Namoona Baa,” said Sonu Shivdasani, Soneva’s CEO and Co-founder.
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 jungle and beaches, while waste is routinely burned in toxic, open bonfires. Human health and guesthouse tourism suffer as a direct result of this practice.
In September 2019, at his maiden address to the United Nations General Assembly, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced a nationwide phase-out of single-use plastics to be implemented by 2023, including phase-outs of single-use plastic bottles and bags. It is one of the most comprehensive phase-outs of single use plastics in the world.
Speaking at a dinner held at Soneva Fushi after the cricket match, Jo Royle, Managing Director of Common Seas, said, “What we saw in Maalhos today shows how local initiatives can make a significant reduction in the amount of waste an island community produces. Common Seas’ research identifies a handful of policies, that the government could implement quickly, that would go a long way towards meeting President Solih’s commitment to phase out single-use plastics.”
Notes to Editor
Harbhajan Singh is a Former Indian international cricketer. A specialist spin bowler, he has the second-highest number of Test wickets by an off spinner on record. Singh made his Test and One Day International debuts for the Indian national team in 1998.
Common Seas is a not-for-profit enterprise on a mission to quickly and significantly reduce the amount of plastic produced and stop it polluting our rivers and seas. Common Seas tackles the plastic pollution crisis by driving new policy, investing in the circular economy and catalysing a cultural shift in how we use and dispose of plastic. Our global team works across government, businesses and society to chart a course to healthy seas for all. Common Seas is a founding partner of Namoona Baa and Clean Blue Charter, the collaborative change programme enabling plastic free Maldivian seas.
Namoona Baa is an initiative inspired by the Soneva philosophy that waste is a valuable asset. The initiative is a partnership between three local islands (Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo), Soneva, marine plastic foundation Common Seas, and the government of the Maldives are creating a prototype that could reimagine waste management in the Maldives.
At the heart of the initiative is a radical reduction in the volume of plastic arriving on the islands. Soneva assisted the council of Maalhos to establish a water bottling plant that desalinates and mineralises sea water before bottling it in reusable glass bottles, using the same system as the water served to guests at Soneva resorts.
Recycling and responsible disposal of waste forms the second strand of the programme. Soneva recycles or reuses 90 per cent of resort waste at their eco-centro waste management centres. Maalhos is the first island to open a Soneva-sponsored eco-centro with upgraded machinery that will include a wood chipper and a glass crusher.
The third component is to inspire a love of the ocean and the local environment. With a nod to both the inspiration of teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and the response to plastic waste from the global surfing community, Soneva is nurturing a new generation of ocean stewards.