Sustainable initiatives in the Maldives — The current state of affairs
Pristine sandy beaches, colourful coral reefs and exclusive resorts, the Maldives is a coveted marketplace for many a hotelier. For the past 30 years the island nation has developed from a secret and secluded diver’s hotspot to an international luxury resort hub known to all. This extraordinary boom has greatly benefited the Maldivian economy injecting substantial funds into their general GDP but it has also come at significant environmental cost.
For the past decades the fragile corals reefs and lagoons have been silent witnesses to endless constructions projects and non-existent waste management policies. Compounding this the current government recently declared themselves in favour of developing mass tourism rather than promoting sustainable projects (The Guardian, March 2017).
So it is and pretty much always has been up to the Hoteliers to decide their level of commitment towards eco-friendly and social programs.
Reefscapers is a coral propagation program that gives guests the opportunity to plant their own coral frames in the resorts’ surrounding reefs (you can also name or dedicate the frame to a relative or loved one). The project was initiated with Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru and Four Seasons Kudaa Hura in 2004, One&Only Reethi Rah, Club Med Kani and Cocoa Island by Como joined the club in 2013, and Kanahura in 2014.
Many resorts also participate in animal conservation programs such as the Olive Ridley Project (Cocoa Island by Como), Marine Savers (Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru andFour Seasons Kudaa Hura) and The Manta Trust (Four Seasons again!).
Other sustainable practises include desalinating the water in an effort to reduce the average 3kg waste per tourist per day (plastic water bottles etc.), locally sourcing many of the ingredients required by the gourmet restaurants or selecting timber from sustainable suppliers.
However today one resort leads the field in the sustainability game in the island nation: newly launched Soneva Jani. The latest brainchild of successful hotelier couple Sonu and Eva Shivdasani boasts seriously impressive eco-friendly attributes.
The 5-island resort (its own archipelago) features 25 utopian villas — the largest villas in the Maldives featuring mind-blowing retractable roofs so that guests can stargaze at night in the comfort of their own room. But more relevant to our subject the resort hosts a comprehensive Waste-to-Wealth program, the Rolls Royce of waste management for resorts ensuring that 74% of their solid waste is recycled and that their carbon footprint is minimised. The slightest details seem to have been carefully thought of: ethically sourced timber, glass recycling, food composting, the use of solar power and natural ventilation wherever possible…but it gets better, Soneva Jani even launched the first silent Cinema, where guests are invited to use bluetooth headphones to avoid disturbing the local fauna. The Soneva group itself is an active advocate of social and green causes and participates in various initiatives such as empowering Maldivian women to work or supporting minorities in Thailand, the group is also the instigator of the SLOW Life Symposium to accelerate progress towards environmental sustainability.
Hats off !
Acknowledging that there is room for improvement, particular in the case of employee development programs (access to university is challenging in this nation), the Maldivian example is a relevant one for hoteliers looking to making a positive impact on the environment beyond what they are legally obliged to.