The Environment Protection Agency has imposed a fine of MVR275,000 (US$17,800) on the leaseholder of Mendhoo island in Laamu atoll over the clearance of vegetation to build a road.
Coconut palms and other trees were removed from a 4,822 square meter area on the island’s northwest corner in violation of an environmental impact assessment report approved in November 2018, the EPA said on Thursday.
The uninhabited island was leased to Hassan Adil, from Seenu Maradhoo Asraaruge, for agricultural purposes. Adil, a former lawmaker, was fined pursuant to the 1993 environment protection law and the 2012 regulations on EIA reports. He was ordered on Wednesday to pay the fine within 30 days.
According to an Environment Impact Assessment for the agro-farming project on Mendhoo, an estimated 1,199 palm trees would be removed from the island. “Due to the small size of the island, majority of the island vegetation is needed to be cleared and impact of that will be significant,” the EIA report stated.
Hundreds of trees were uprooted from Mendhoo and transported to new resorts under development in a reclaimed lagoon near the capital Malé, it emerged in March. More than 300 coconut palms were carried out on a barge, a councillor from a nearby island told Sun. A new channel was also dredged from the southern island’s reef to allow access to the vessel.
It was the latest instance of a practice environmental activists have dubbed #MvTreeGrab, the removal of trees from natural islands all over the country to landscape reclaimed islands being developed as luxury resorts.
In the face of criticism over its role, the EPA said last month that the number of trees planted in 2019 was three times more than the number of trees removed with permits during the year. Some 8,602 trees were planted on five islands and 2,706 trees were removed from 21 islands, according to the agency.