Moonlighting army moves garbage in tourist paradise

MALE, Oct 29, 2007 (AFP) – The Maldives is known as an upmarket holiday destination with squeaky clean beaches, but it’s an army of moonlighting Bangladeshis who keep the capital from sinking under a mountain of rubbish.

The less than one square mile (two square kilometre) Male is one of the world’s most densely populated capitals with a population of over 130,000 people, but it has only two garbage trucks and 20 labourers.

However, the unofficial dustmen, numbering up to 400 Bangladeshis, shift about 20 to 25 tonnes of waste from households in the congested, low-lying capital protected from the sea by a wall.

“They (the Bangladeshis) are very, very important for us to keep Male clean,” said Abdul Hameed Ali, the director general of the Male Municipality. “We would not be able to do the solid waste collection on our own.”

Ali says his own team of Bangladeshi labourers use their lunch breaks to moonlight, cycling through the island city’s narrow cobblestone streets to collect refuse from homes.

Mohamed Dhalim, 26, said peddling his garbage-laden, single-speed cycle earns him an additional 250 dollars a month. His regular job as a labourer and cleaner pays him only 95 dollars.

“I collect bags