Response to fire incident
at Fuvahmulah City Landfill
Joint Press Statement
26 July 2023
This is a joint Press Statement issued in conjunction with the recent fire at the landfill in Fuvahmulah City. The fire led to continuous emission of smoke, affecting the island for over a week, posing significant health and environmental risks to the community.
Fuvahmulah is a UNESCO biosphere reserve known for its unique natural assets, including freshwater mangroves, wetlands, healthy vegetation, forests, and the pebbled Thoondu beach. The island’s ecosystem services, including tiger shark diving, are vital for the local economy and sustenance of the community.
The landfill, managed by WAMCO, experienced a prolonged fire with intermittent outbreaks, from 12 July 2023 onwards, exposing the community to hazardous conditions. Despite the seriousness of the situation, local authorities failed to issue any hazard warnings till 19th July 2023. The area was not sealed off and public sports grounds in the vicinity were in operation throughout several days of toxic emissions.
The incident also impacts upon the island’s tourism sector, raising concerns among potential travellers to Fuvahmulah.
We call upon the Government of Maldives (GOM) to conduct a thorough inquiry into negligence and mismanagement by WAMCO and all relevant government authorities.
We take note that while GOM allocates finance and receives loans & donor aid for waste management, Fuvahmulah lacks essential equipment, machinery, and safety gear to address holistic waste management and related potential hazards.
We urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a comprehensive, independent investigation into the environmental damage caused to soil, water sources, crops, and vegetation of Fuvahmulah as a result of toxic emissions from the fire. The community of Fuvahmulah is entitled to compensation for environmental damage, under the Waste Management Law.
The Ministry of Health and the Health Protection Agency are requested to review their procedures for declaring public health emergencies to ensure timely action by local health personnel. An inquiry is also sought into the lack of directives by national and local authorities, during several days of toxic emissions exposure.
The Fuvahmulah City Council and the Women’s Development Committee are called upon to act responsibly without political biases, ensuring a coordinated approach to disaster management involving local community groups and local institutions.
Lastly, the Fuvahmulah City Council is urged to pursue rightful compensation for the health and environmental risks posed by the incident through all available administrative and legal avenues.
The statement is endorsed and signed by various stakeholders on July 26, 2023.
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