Forward: The following images were shot on assignment in the Maldives late 2011 while producing an article published in Januarys issue of TIME magazine, some readers may recognise one or two of the photos? Parts of this set are featured elsewhere on this site.
…subsequently the British newspaper The Daily Mail, ran a feature on an number of the images.
I make no political implication with the images. I continue to hold in high regard the politicians who have a difficult task in running a remote island nation. The images are now together in the context they were intended to be viewed.
Famed for its blue skies, white sands and turquoise waters it is easy to see why this archipelago comprised of over 1,192 islands has become a Mecca for the rich, famous and newly-wed. Situated in the Indian Ocean, the islands are grouped into 26 atolls and host the world’s most prestigious hotels.
Under the surface of five-star bliss there are problems that if ignored have the potential to destroy the golden goose.
Thilafushi Island or “Garbage Island” as its known locally can clearly been seen from the capital city Malé. Thick smoke rises 24 hours a day from operations.
Waste is brought in by truck and dumped onto the shallow reef, burnt and compacted. 16 years ago there was no island to speak off just pristine reef and sub-aqua life. The island now grows by 1m per day to accommodate the disposal of the five-star garbage.
In a recorded interview with the CEO of Thilafushi Corporation he states that there is no risk of contamination (leakage) to the surrounding area. Could there be the potential of an environmental problem where toxic heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium are at risk of leaching out into the sea and damaging marine ecology. 3000 people live and work on Thilafushi Island; wind direction is a keen topic of conversation amongst its inhabitancies. Cancer is rife as is respiratory disease.
The young population have little to aspire too. The two largest industries in the Maldives are Tourism and Fisheries; both are poorly paid and have little career potential. In recorded interviews with the Minister of Health and the Managing Director of the Malé Health Corporation both warn of the drug problem that grips the population. Official figures show that 40% of the youth take Heroin.
A technology savvy youth utilise modern communication tools including Skype, Facebook and twitter, in organising impromptu parties away from the gaze of authorities on uninhabited islands. There is no alcohol at these parties as the maldives is Muslim however ironically drugs are freely available and openly used.
The ones who suffer are the kids!
Child abuse in the Maldives is incredibly high. 12 percent of Maldivian women between the age of 15 and 49 have been sexually abused.
In the Maldives, 82 people were killed and 26 reported missing (presumed dead) after it was hit by a tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake on 26 December.
Two-thirds of the capital city Malé was flooded during the early hours of the day.
Malé is congested. It is the second most densely populated city on the planet. Due to the high water level (1m below the ground) foundations for the multiple story buildings are not as affective as the equivalent on firm ground. There is a cause for concern that when the next earthquake hits the mass of the buildings could cause the island to sink and disappear into the ocean.
Jamie A Cowan © shutterLIVING