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This island is a toxic dump in the centre of paradise

Thilafushi, an artificial island in the middle of the Maldives archipelago, is the dumping ground for Malé and luxury hotels.

THILAFUSHI, LOCATED JUST a few miles west of the Maldivian capital of Malé, is a far cry from the white beaches and turquoise waters that surround it.

Once a pristine lagoon in the Indian Ocean, the artificial island now serves as a dumping ground for one of the most exclusive tourist destinations in the world.

Hundreds of tons of solid waste and toxic material from Malé and luxury hotels on nearby islands are unloaded on Thilafushi every day.

The amount of waste continues to grow as more and more tourists flock to the islands.

Maldivian native Hani Amir captured shocking images of Thilafushi, taken last year, that reveal the ugly side of paradise. He called it ‘God’s dirty little secret’ on his Flickr page.

This island is a toxic dump in the centre of paradise
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  • The island of Thilafushi is a short boat ride from Malé, the capital of the Maldives

  • It was originally a lagoon called Thilafalhu

  • In 1992 the area was reclaimed and transformed into an artificial landfill to solve Malé's waste crisis

  • The ever-growing rubbish problem was brought on by an increasing number of tourists to the Maldives

  • Today, ships of rubbish from the capital and nearby luxury resorts are sent daily to the island

  • That's more than 330 tons of rubbish every day

  • Thilafushi accommodates only a few boats at a time for unloading, at times creating waits of up to seven hours

  • Scrap metal, plastic bottles and cardboard boxes are sent to different zones

  • In December 2011, impatient boaters started dumping rubbish in the lagoon - the island had to be temporarily closed for a clean-up

  • 150 Bangladeshi men live and work at the dump

  • Engineers originally dug huge pits to bury the rubbish

  • The volume of waste eventually became too large to cover by sand

  • Some plastic and metal is recycled

  • Some of the waste is burned

  • Potentially hazardous materials such as used batteries, lead, asbestos and mercury are not isolate

  • As the island sits just one metre above sea level, there are fears for water contamination

  • The island is now home to several dozen factories for boat manufacturing, methane bottling and cement packing

All images by Hani Amir

- Dina Spector

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