Some 18 massive steel pipes imported for the ongoing construction of the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge are being kept on top of a coral reef near Malé.
A Facebook group called ‘Reports of Environmental Misconduct’ posted Sunday an aerial photo of the pipes atop the reef on the reclaimed island of Gulhifalhu, sparking outrage on social media over possible damage to the reef.
According to online paper CNM, the Environment Protection Agency has ordered the housing ministry, the government agency in charge of supervising the current administration’s flagship project, to remove the pipes.
An EPA media official told The Maldives Independent that it did not authorise the storage of the pipes on Gulhifalhu reef, located southwest of the capital near the industrial island of Thilafushi.
The agency is looking into the matter, the official said, but declined to comment on the parties responsible for leaving the pipes on the reef.
The US$200 million Malé-Hulhulé bridge project was awarded last November to China’s CCCC Second Harbour Engineering – a company blacklisted by the World Bank over fraudulent practices during a road improvement project in the Philippines.
The pile casings for the foundation of the 1.9km bridge was brought to the Maldives on May 24.
The EPA has previously imposed hefty fines for environmental damage. A Thai fishing vessel that ran aground on the reef near Shangri-La Villigili Island Resort in November 2011 was fined MVR42.1 million (US$2.7 million).
The EPA said at the time that the reef was “destroyed” and was unlikely to recover in the near future.
Under environmental regulations, the boat’s owner was given 25 days to remove the boat before incurring a fine of RF700,000 (US$45,000) per day that the boat remained grounded.