Joint statement calling for the proper management of Marine Protected Areas
The most recent report Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows how urgent it is for low-lying countries such as the Maldives to overcome the threats due to rising ocean temperatures and sea-level rise. As such, the proliferation of multiple new projects, including projects planned to be carried out in or around marine protected areas, that threaten to destroy our unique coastal ecosystems is not only highly concerning, but will have devastating impacts on our communities and livelihoods. One of the main reasons for designating areas of ocean as MPA’s is to restrict human activities and safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem structure.
1. Rasdhoo Madivaru
On 13 August, a video circulated across social media depicting the destruction of Rasdhoo Madivaru by Veligandu Island Resort. The reclamation of the lagoon and dredging has been opposed strongly by the locals. They called out authorities for allowing destructive and unsustainable activities on Rasdhoo Madivaru, which is classified as an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Marine Area under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
Furthermore, it was devastating that EPA had approved the project after an EIA in August 2020, which stated that “it is unlikely to cause damage to the protected area.” However, according to the assessment report 48,000 cubic meters (equivalent to 533 standard trucks full) of sand removed, is within seven feet of the MPA’s buffer zone. The development is likely to result in all sedimentation settling on Madivaru corner, also known as hammerhead point, increasing chances of losing marine life.
Currently, all the vessels of the ongoing project are docked on top of the turtle Reef and has resulted in damage to the reef, endangering the turtle habitat. Continuation of the destruction will also result in loss of livelihood and impact the economy of Local guest houses that at present are able to take 15-minute boat ride to most dive sites and snorkeling sites.
2. South Ari Marine Protected Area (SAMPA)
In August 2021, media reported that the reef of South Ari Atoll towards the West of Fenfushi island, was being sought for the development of resort.
It is deeply worrying as the proposed location is a vital location for resident dolphins, young zebra sharks, and the fish which maintain the health of the coral reefs. This area is also critical for the livelihoods of the locals as they depend on the lagoon for fishing and bait fishing. Furthermore, the proposed location also neighbors the South Ari Marine Protected Area (SAMPA), which already has a high concentration of resorts in the Maldives and is famous for its whale shark tourism which is unregulated. The SAMPA, which has MPA status, is already highly vulnerable due to several factors such as coral reef degradation. This is further accelerated by human impact from over-tourism, climate change, and sedimentation from the effects of dredging. Furthermore, destroying the coral reefs also leads to land erosion and flooding from storms which are happening more frequently with the changes to the climate.
We call on the Government and all relevant authorities to:
- Conduct meaningful consultations with the public and all relevant stakeholders prior to any work commencement or decision being made on projects.
- Strengthen and revise the EIA process to enforce a more extensive timeframe to conduct the assessment and to be more inclusive of the social impacts.
- Make the Environmental Protection Agency an independent institution as pledged by the government.
- Ensure the effective implement of management plans of the Marine Protected Areas, including standard operating procedures for marine protected areas and the buffer zones.
- Ensure concerns by the community are addressed and precautionary principles, including making mandatory via the terms of reference that EIA recommendation to prioritize the health of the environment over the need of the development project, are adopted in designing and developing projects.
Rasdhoo Madivaru is a marine protected area declared as a nationally protected site in Oct. 2018 due to it being a #BiodiversityHotspot.— #SaveMaldives Campaign (@SaveMaldivesMV) August 17, 2021
Today, #VeliganduIslandResort is dredging nearby, creating a massive sedimentation plume across the area.#VisitMaldives to see #MVecocide? pic.twitter.com/kTOezXzUVl