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26 January 2014
During the 2013 Presidential election campaign, current President Abdulla Yameen made a commitment to develop a domestic airport in the Island of HDh.Kulhudhuhfushi. In August 2013 speaking at a Political gathering in the island, Yameen said, “It’s not enough that there is an airport in HDh.Hanimaadhoo in this region. So our government, god willing, will establish a domestic airport in HDh.Kulhudhuffushi within the first 24 months. Ease of transport is the main basis of development,” (Source: Sun.mv – 12th August 2013)
The airport at HDh.Hanimaadhoo, just 16.6 km, merely an hour via local transport is an International Airport, which Former President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan inaugurated on 2nd February 2013.
At the opening President Waheed said that the Hanimaadhoo International Airport would become a leading hub for economic development and further stated that in addition to the increase in job opportunities, the airport would also open new avenues for regional tourism development. (Source: Presidents Office 2nd February 2013)
With a developing International Airport in the region, and given the distance between two Islands, we cannot find reason whatsoever for the construction of an Airport in the Island of HDh.Kulhudhuffushi.
Previously there used to be two mangrove/wetland areas on the island of HDh.Kulhuduffushi. However, the area in the south was reclaimed earlier for residential, commercial or industrial and social facilities development. One possibility for developing this promised Airport is after reclaiming the remaining large mangrove area in north.
Its must be noted that the Island is among the Ministry of Environment identified ‘Environmentally Sensitive Areas’, with one of the largest Mangrove areas in the region.
The land use plan of 2012, proposed this mangrove area to be an Environment Protection Zone. However, with a new government and promise it is still unclear whether the Yameen Administration will in fact go ahead with the unsustainable reclamation as well as the building of an unnecessary airport in the Island or not.
‘Kulhuduffushi Online’ reported on 6th January 2014, quoting Mr. Samy Ageel, Director General of Regional Airports that the airport project is underway in fast speed and that the Mangrove will not be reclaimed for the development of the Airport. However, most environmentalists and experts still fear the possibility of losing this remarkable mangrove region in the country.
Ecocare Maldives speaking with different sources can confirm at this point that the location of the Airport is still not decided. An inquiry on the matter to the Environment Protection Agency has been left unanswered since 19th January 2014. Senior official however has told Ecocare Maldives that the matter is of “politically sensitive nature”.
After speaking with Environment Practitioners who had previously worked on different projects at HDh.Kulhuduffushi, it has been made aware that there is a growing population of younger more environmentally sound locals who are opposing the idea of an airport. The main issue faced according to most people in the island is the unreliable ferry system in place that is neither managed properly nor facilitated well enough, which needs to be improved to accommodate scheduled transportation between Hanimaadhoo Airport as well as express services and better equipped emergency transportation services. With a sustainable approach to the matter at hand there is no need for a domestic airport in the island.
Sources confirm that the current administration is also working on amending different rules and regulations already in place such as those to prevent uprooting of Palms and other trees, as well as regulations on reclamation, in order to carryout such ambitious projects.
Though the constitution it self calls for sustainable development, it is sad and absurd when politicians care less about the vulnerability of Maldives and of its ecological diversity. We would at this time remind all government authorities and advice all parties involved in the matter to refrain from any unconstitutional actions against the vulnerable environment of the country.
Article 22 of the Maldivian Constitution says that the State has a fundamental duty to protect and preserve the natural environment, biodiversity, resources and beauty of the country for the benefit of present and future generations. The State shall undertake and promote desirable economic and social goals through ecologically balanced sustainable development and shall take measures necessary to foster conservation, prevent pollution, the extinction of any species and ecological degradation from any such goals.
Ecocare Maldives believes that it is a direct violation of Article 22 of the constitution if the government goes ahead with the reclamation of HDh.Kulhuduffushi mangrove area to develop a Domestic Airport in the Island.
We call all authorities involved to bring an immediate stop to any such initiatives in the island and also request all concerned authorities to resort to alternative, more environmentally sustainable development practice taking into account the environmental vulnerability of the country. We also urge concerned authorities to show commitment in conserving and protecting these environmentally sensitive areas throughout the country.
For more information please contact:
Maeed M. Zahir
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