Soneva launches Namoona Baa Initiative, unveils first ‘Eco-Centro’ outside Soneva Fushi
Soneva has officially launched its Namoona Baa initiative with the unveiling of the ‘eco-centro’ complex on the island of Maalhos, Maldives.
Namoona Baa sees the islands of Maalhos, Dharavandhoo, and Kihaadhoo in the Baa atoll pledging to end the open burning of island waste, in a radical shift towards eco-friendly waste management.
The pledge was made by the presidents of Maalhos, Dharavandhoo, and Kihaadhoo island councils, during a workshop on waste held at Soneva Fushi on January 5-8, 2019.
To end the practice of the open burning of waste, which poses a health and environmental hazard and damages tourism, each island will create an ‘eco-centro’ waste-to-wealth centre that will sort, recycle and reuse island waste.
The eco-centro model was pioneered at Soneva Fushi, which is located close to Maalhos. At the resort, food and organic waste, metals, and bottles are chipped, ground down or composted, and turned into things of economic value, such as concrete building blocks and fertiliser. Plastic waste is either recycled or used to create useful new objects.
Soneva has pledged funds from its Soneva Save our Seas programme to support the creation of the eco-centros on Maalhos, Dharavandhoo, and Kihaadhoo. During the January workshop, the island council presidents helped forge a new partnership amongst their islands, Soneva Fushi, and Common Seas, an international NGO dedicated to reducing marine plastic pollution.
The new partnership — part of the international Clean Blue Alliance which supports islands to prevent plastic waste leaking into the ocean — sets a course for Baa atoll, and eventually the Maldives, to become a global leader in halting ocean plastic pollution.
As part of the inauguration of the Maalhos eco-centro, a friendly cricket match took place on the island. Maldivian parliament speaker, former president Mohamed Nasheed, played a game of cricket Tuesday afternoon alongside former Indian international cricketer Harbhajan Singh, and a number of Maldivian cabinet ministers and officials.
The match helped showcase a new recreational area created on the island, which had previously been the site of a rubbish dump. The area has since been transformed into a recreational area under the Namoona Baa initiative.
“What we have brought to our islands in the course of building a life, has taken us over – waste has taken over our reefs, beaches and islands. This waste is now a curse,” Nasheed said.
Prior to playing cricket, President Nasheed, the Maalhos island council president Shujau, and Soneva CEO and co-founder Sonu Shivdasani officially inaugurated the Maalhos eco-centro waste-to-wealth centre – an innovative, waste processing complex modelled on Soneva Fushi’s Eco Centro.
At the complex, the island’s waste is sorted into different categories such as plastic, glass, tin and wood; which is then compacted, crushed, and chipped where possible, and sent for recycling. The new eco-centro has enabled Maalhos to completely stop the open burning of rubbish and waste – making it the first inhabited island in the Maldives to do so.
“The eco-centro is a revolution for Maalhos. After 20 years, we have turned our dump yard into a proper waste centre,” Maalhos island council president Shujau said.
President Nasheed also viewed a photo exhibition highlighting the different components of Namoona Baa, including the local school’s ‘zero-waste’ recycling challenge, surf lessons and tournaments involving local women and girls, and the island’s drinking water plant, Soneva Water, which provides 80 per cent of households with drinking water in reusable bottles, eliminating the need for single-use plastic bottles.
“Maalhos can now produce wealth from its waste. This is just the beginning; and we will roll out the eco-centros to Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo this year, and working with the government hopefully to extend the project to the whole of Baa Atoll – making it truly Namoona Baa,” Sonu said.
Dealing with waste, particularly plastic, is a major issue for every island community in the Maldives. Plastic bottles and bags tend to litter streets, island jungle and beaches, while waste is routinely burned in toxic, open bonfires. Human health and guesthouse tourism suffer as a direct result of this practice.
Under the Namoona Baa Initiative, the Maalhos model will be expanded to neighbouring Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo, with eco-centro waste-to-wealth centres established on both islands later this year. With government support, it is hoped that the model can be rolled out across the Baa atoll, and eventually the whole of the Maldives.
In August 2019, Common Seas produced a preliminary report for the Maldivian government showing how the island nation could radically reduce the amount of single-use plastic it consumes, and reduce plastic pollution.
In September 2019, at his maiden address to the UN General Assembly, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced a nationwide phase-out of single-use plastics to be implemented by 2023, including phase-outs of single-use plastic bottles and bags. It is one of the most comprehensive phase-outs of single use plastics in the world.
“What we saw in Maalhos today shows how local initiatives can make a significant reduction in the amount of waste an island community produces. Common Seas’ research identifies a handful of policies, that the government could implement quickly, that would go a long way towards meeting President Solih’s commitment to phase out single-use plastics,” Jo Royle, Managing Director of Common Seas, said, during a dinner held at Soneva Fushi after the cricket match.
Soneva currently runs two resorts in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani, and luxury yacht, Soneva in Aqua. The world-leading luxury resort operator also operates Soneva Kiri resort in Thailand.
In 1995, the award-winning luxury resort Soneva Fushi set the standard for all desert island barefoot luxury hideaways in the Maldives. Located in the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Soneva Fushi pairs Robinson Crusoe fantasy with intelligent luxury.
Sixty-two private villas with their own stretch of beach are hidden amongst dense foliage within touching distance of a pristine coral reef. Eight new one- and two-bedroom Water Retreats, perched above the turquoise depths of the Indian Ocean, are scheduled to open to guests by May. Intuitive service is provided by Mr./Ms. Friday butlers.
Highlights include the open-air Cinema Paradiso, counting Saturn’s rings in the high-tech Observatory, the home-made chocolate and ice cream rooms, five hundred wines to choose from, six different restaurants and countless destination dining options.
In November 2015, Soneva launched a floating villa concept, Soneva in Aqua, a treasure trove children’s Den and a multi-purpose facility encompasses a glass gallery, boutique and studio where guests can learn the art of glass blowing.
Opened in December 2016, Soneva Jani is Soneva’s newest property and the world-leading luxury hotel group’s second resort in the Maldives.
Soneva Jani is located on the island of Medhufaru within a 5.6 kilometre lagoon in the Noonu atoll, and has uninterrupted ocean views in all directions. The lagoon is 35 minutes by seaplane from Velana International Airport and one hour by speedboat from Soneva Fushi.
Meaning ‘wisdom’ in Sanskrit, Soneva Jani currently comprises 24 overwater villas and one island villa, with additional villas to be built in phase two. Five islands encircle the lagoon, each one with soft white sands and covered in rich tropical vegetation. Four of the five islands will remain untouched, making Soneva Jani the lowest density development in the Maldives. The overwater villas are spaced across the expansive lagoon, offering privacy and extensive views over the Maldives’ turquoise waters. The island villas will be tucked into the lush greenery, providing the ultimate privacy, and all within steps of the beach.
Soneva Jani’s main guest facilities are located at The Gathering, the heart of the overwater villas. This dramatic three story structure is home to the main dining outlets, in addition to the Soneva Spa, library, retail area and wine cellar. It is located next to the Maldives’ first overwater Observatory.
Facilities on the island include the overwater Cinema Paradiso, the Eco Centro Waste-to-Wealth centre, organic gardens, tennis courts, water sports champa and Zuhair’s Beach on a desert island in the lagoon.
Photos: HAWWA AMANY ABDULLA / THE EDITION