Waste PPPs are gaining traction in developing countries, and the recent implementation of a waste PPP in the Maldives illustrates how far a country can come in its relationship with rubbish. Since the 2008 election, the country has been in the midst of a rapid social, political, and economic transformation. Officials and administrators aim to combat the developmental challenges of climate change, poverty reduction, private sector development, and economic restructuring, so urban infrastructure tops the priority list.

The country is particularly vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels. The threat of climate change to the nation’s existence was highlighted by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released in 2007, which forecasted a rise in sea levels by the end of the century. Because 80 percent of the Maldives’ 1200 islands are about 1 to 1.5 meters above sea level, the report suggested that the country may become uninhabitable within 100 years. In response, the president has set an ambitious target of turning Maldives into a carbon-neutral country by 2020.

To this end, the government decided to tackle the growing solid waste management issues in the country via private-sector participation. IFC, as lead transaction advisor, assisted the government in developing an integrated waste management strategy and implementation plan (including primary and secondary collection, transportation, storage and recycling, treatment and scientific disposal of waste) for the country’s prime waste generation geography. This includes the capital island of Malé and the surrounding islands and resorts, which generate nearly 60 to 70 percent of the waste in Maldives.

IFC also recently concluded the bid process for the selection of a private concessionaire to undertake the integrated waste management project.

The winning bidder has proposed to set up a 2.7MW waste-to-energy plant at the project island of Thilafushi. This plant will have the potential to replace 100 percent of the diesel-based power generation on the island and save nearly 12,000 tons of CO2 annually. The concessionaire cannot dispose more than five percent of organic rejects, which are the primary cause of leachate generation at the landfill (causing contamination of the surrounding environment). It is also prohibited from disposing more than 15 percent of the overall rejects into the landfill.

The concessionaire would also discontinue the current environmentally unfriendly system of open burning of waste at Thilafushi and use a treatment plant so that emissions are controlled and air quality is maintained. It would also be required to prepare an EIA report and an Environment and Social Management Plan in compliance with Maldivian Environmental Standards, International Best Practice, and Equator Principle Standards.

When the project is completed, IFC will have helped the Maldives promote private sector investment in the solid waste management sector by mobilizing capital worth $50 million; improved the solid waste management infrastructure and services in the catchment area for around 120,000 people; supported its goal to become carbon-neutral by 2020; and helped it comply with good global practices on scientific treatment and disposal of solid waste. What was once known only as trash may yet
become treasure.