NGOs in Maldives Demand Environmental Justice
Maldivian authorities must take action against those causing environmental destruction to the vulnerable islands and have to be transparent about it, a joint press release by 11 Maldivian conservation organizations said.
The statement particularly criticized the government’s inaction when it comes to tourism and offered the example of a sandbank near Himmafushi Island where locals claim a resort oversaw its destruction to prevent Maldivians from enjoying the area recreationally.
“With extreme concern, we would also like to stress that this inaction is encouraging irreparable environmental crimes against our natural resources,” the organizations said.
The resort accused of sabotaging the sandbank, Gili Lankanfushi, is located on a nearby island and markets itself as an “Eco Resort” on its website. A video released on twitter identifies the General Manager of the resort on a boat at night with a group of men and multiple shovels.
The press release condemned the tourism industry’s practice of dumping waste into the oceans, which the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry has said was fully legal and cannot be stopped on such short notice.
While the option of dumping biodegradable food waste outside of the atolls is in line with designated regulations for the tourism industry, conservation groups alleged that the dumping goes beyond the scope of what is legally acceptable.
“We continue to see remains of non-biodegradable waste dumped into the seas and lagoons,” the statement said.“It is also alarming that despite the negligence shown by the tourism sector operators in following such regulations, no action had been taken against them.”
Maldivians have a complicated history with the tourism industry on which its economy relies. An OCCRP investigation revealed corrupt dealings between the former tourism minister, global brands and billionaires from all over the world who illegally leased islands and lagoons for millions of dollars which were then stolen by the minister.
The coalition of organizations also highlighted the plight of sharks in the Maldives. Despite being a protected species with a longtime fishing ban in Maldivian waters, the sharks have been illegally fished in large numbers as recently as the beginning of 2021 when Maldives Customs Service confiscated 429 kg of shark fins at Velana International Airport.
The statement used these crimes as a jumping off point to pressure officials to take swift action against those with environmentally destructive practices in the Maldives. It stressed the importance of strong legal frameworks and reminded the Maldivian State of its fundamental duty to protect and preserve the environment, biodiversity and the natural resources of the islands.
The statement was released by Transparency Maldives in collaboration with Zero Waste Maldives, Save Huvadhoo, Huvadhoo Aid, Eco Care Maldives, Be Leaf, Save Our Waves Maldives, The Maldives Resilient Reefs Project, Nala Fehi Meedhoo, Land Sea Maldives, and Save Maldives.