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    Maldives Plans for a Floating Resort on Ecologically Significant Island Evokes NGOs ‘Concern’

    EnvironmentBio-diversityMaldives Plans for a Floating Resort on Ecologically Significant...
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    Maldives Plans for a Floating Resort on Ecologically Significant Island Evokes NGOs ‘Concern’

    In a joint statement, the civil society organisations have called on the government of Maldives to declare HDH.Keylakunu as a nature reserve and halt any impeding development.

    A plan by the government of Maldives for a floating resort on an ecologically sensitive island has evoked ‘concern’ by a group of five prominent NGOs in the country.

    The #SaveMaldives Campaign includes the Association for Democracy Maldives, Beleaf Maldives, Ecocare Maldives, Transparency Maldives and Zero Waste Maldives.

    The NGOs have expressed apprehensions following the decision made by the country’s new Visitor Economy Council, headed by President Mohamed Muizzu, to develop a floating resort in the ecologically significant island of HDh. Keylakunu.

    “We are deeply concerned,” the NGOs have said in a joint statement calling on the government to halt any impending development activities at Hdh. Keylakunu and declare it a nature reserve to protect the rare wild mangrove forest and limit human interaction.

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    Earlier in 2017, a similar decision by the ministry of tourism to add HDh. Keylakunu to a list of islands selected for bidding for tourism development was met with pushback from civil society organisations and environmental advocates, demanding the significant natural heritage of the island be protected and declared as a biosphere reserve. In December 2018, the Ministry of Environment declared the area as protected under the Law 4/93 – Environment Protection and Preservation Act.

    The joint statement says: “We observe with grave concern that consecutive governments are consistently encroaching on environmentally protected areas, which is decimating the living natural heritage and community livelihood resources of the Maldives.”

    “The last mangrove in Kaafu Atoll, situated in Huraa, has been undermined and endangered by reclamation,” the statement reads. “Multiple marine protected and sensitive areas in Addu Atoll Biosphere Reserve were subjected to irreversible degradation by reclamation in 2023.”

    Mangrove tourism

    Keylakunu is one of the only islands in the Maldives that is home to forest-like features with an abundance of Avecennia Marina (Baru Gas) mangroves, and the sole island ecosystem in our archipelago that harbors such an abundance with comparable density. The International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems recommended that the Maldivian Government make the island a biosphere reserve in 2001, noting that “a big beautiful mangrove forest dominated with Avicennia marina are not so many in the world nowadays” and that “once destroy such a beautiful mangrove forest dominated with Aviccenia marina, you may never have it again”.

    Mangrove forests are one of the most impactful carbon-trapping ecosystems. They are effective at locking away amounts of “blue carbon”, serving as an important ecosystem mechanism to address the climate crisis. Conservation and preservation of our finite ecosystems are tantamount to successful sustainable development, and we believe it is imperative that we stand firm against threats that devalue the ecological integrity of our resources.

    “Not only do we stand against the development of Keylakunu as an ecotourism destination, but we urge the government to carry the same sentiments; to recognize and to address the looming threats that the development of tourism and tourist activities continue to impose on our vital ecosystems; which include the recent impacts of sand mining, land reclamation and tree grabbing,” their statement reads.

    Image: Wikimedia

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