Photo Of The Day

A migrant worker scavenges for materials in a landfill in the Maldives. Thilafushi is an artificial island created by filling one of the Maldives' shallow lagoons with garbage. More than 330 tons of rubbish was brought to Thilafushi each day.

A migrant worker scavenges for materials in a landfill in the Maldives. Thilafushi is an artificial island created by filling one of the Maldives’ shallow lagoons with garbage. More than 330 tons of rubbish was brought to Thilafushi each day.

Thilafushi – The “Rubbish Island”

The exorbitant price of paradise

Thilafushi receives hundreds of tonnes of rubbish from other islands in the Maldives every day. Twenty two years ago it was an unspoilt coral reef. There are different zones around the island for different types of waste. The first delivery of rubbish was in 1992.

Thilafushi, like most of the islands in the Maldives, lies around only 1m above sea level and is therefore at risk of rising sea levels because of climate change. Toxic heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium are already at risk of leaching out into the sea and damaging marine ecology

Thilafushi was created to keep paradise pure, but with tons of garbage arriving by boat everyday, its toxicity threatens the existence of the Maldivian paradise itself.

The sea is so clear that only the bright, bouncing sunlight indicates where the surface lies. Bending through the water, the light turns turquoise, then violet. The sky sits above the ocean like a vast bubble held up by the sun. Walking on the beach, sand as fine as flour runs between your toes. It is the quintessential image of paradise, laminated on each brochure and bringing in 600,000 tourists each year.

But in their wake they leave a lot of trash, and for years, there was nowhere to put it. In 1992, the government began building a new landfill island, Thilafushi, made from old bottles, oil drums and tin cans and growing one square meter each day.

Arriving by boat, trash of different types is separated by zone, making topographic views of the island a parody of landscape, such as a miniature desert of yellow petrol cans sitting beside a 15 foot mountain range of blue plastic bottles.

Workmen burn what they can, but fresh trash often arrives too fast and new waste is piled over old fires. They patrol the dump with hoses and disinfectant, sanitizing the top layer of the waste heap, but this island itself is built from crap, and they are trying to wipe it clean.

The air hangs heavy with smoke from plastic, varnish and cheap tin. Beneath the fires, beneath the boats arriving with fresh trash, untreated waste chemicals bleed underwater into the lagoon, turning the ocean to acid.

This acid is dissolving the coral base of the Maldives, which will eventually collapse. When the sea pours back over the land, this new island will have dissolved all the islands around it.

Now, the government of the Maldives has belatedly banned the dumping of waste on the island, due largely to an increase in the number of waste boats ‘fly-tipping’ directly into the sea, fed up with waiting seven hours or more to offload their cargo.

The freighters are now ferrying debris to India instead.

http://www.colorsmagazine.com/stories/magazine/77/story/plastic-paradise


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