Laamu Atoll, Maldives

#SaveMaldives Welcomes Cabinet Decision
to Protect 6 Areas in Laamu Atoll

Male’, Maldives : 23 December 2021

The Save Maldives Campaign welcomes the Maldives government’s decision announced on 21 December 2021 to protect six areas of environmental significance in Laamu Atoll. The decision to protect these sites come following persistent efforts by multiple stakeholders within and outside Laamu Atoll to raise public awareness about the importance of these finite environmental assets which provide sustainable ecosystem services to local communities and the country.

The newly protected sites are :

  • Boda Fengada (Paree Fengandu) in Laamu Gan
  • Maabaidhoo Koaru and Fushee Kandu area in Laamu Maabaidhoo
  • Laamu Bodufinolhu and Vadinolhu Sea area
  • Laamu Gaadhoo inclusive of turtle nesting sites, mangroves, surrounding reef and seagrass sites
  • Channel between Laamu Gaadhoo and Hithadhoo (consisting of manta ray feeding grounds)
  • Laamu Hithadhoo mangroves and surrounding area

Marking the international biodiversity day in May 2021, the Save Maldives Campaign joined others to call on the government of Maldives to stop the allocation of Laamu Atoll Gaadhoo, Haa Alif Atoll Mulidhoo and Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Gan for commercial agricultural development, endangering rich and finite ecosystems. Notably, all three islands have rich forest cover, valuable terrestrial and marine ecosystems, specifically turtle nesting sites that already had protected status.[1] Therefore, we welcome the government’s decision to protect Laamu Gaadhoo in its entirety inclusive of its terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

We remind the government to protect all turtle nesting sites in the country including the currently at-risk Haa Alif Mulidhoo and Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Gan. We observe that although the Maldives has a long history of protecting turtles dating back to 1978 which had steadily progressed on paper[2], the real, meaningful and on the ground protection of turtles, their nesting sites, habitat, feeding and breeding grounds remain ineffective. We call on the government to make its intentions on paper, realities on the ground. We urge President Solih to revert his government’s decision to release Mulidhoo and Gan for agricultural use by the State-owned company AgroNet.

The Maldives continues to suffer extensive ecosystem degradation and destruction due to unsustainable development practices by the government, which fail to account for ecosystem loss and damage. We note that in conjunction with the announcement of the protected sites in Laamu Atoll, the government has also announced its intention to build 6 new airports which would cause irreversible ecosystem degradation and destruction across the country. The government’s continued “business-as-usual” unsustainable development approach is inconsistent with national laws, the Maldives commitments toward the UN sustainable development goals, as well as the very real environmental threats faced by the country.

As such, we once again reiterate our firm position that the government’s policy to protect “one island, one reef and one wetland in each atoll” is absolutely unacceptable. The Maldives declared a climate emergency in 2020 and ratified a Climate Emergency Law recognising global climate change impacts in 2021. The government must act with sincerity, integrity and decisively on the multiple crises facing the country including the climate crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic crisis and the debt-crisis. It must act meaningfully to address the very real existential crisis for the people of the Maldives, by choosing sustainable development practices which prioritise and value our public natural assets, source of national wealth, security and climate change resilience.

[1] Marine turtles of the Maldives : a field identification guide, Hudgins J [et al], IUCN/MRC/USAID, 2017

[2] Maldives National Report 2019, CMS/IOSEA Marine Turtle Memorandum, 8th Meeting of signatory States, October 2019

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