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Infrastucture ministry fined for environmental damage

The ministry uprooted trees and carried out road construction without an environmental impact assessment.



The housing and infrastructure ministry has been slapped with hefty fines for carrying out road construction projects in breach of environmental protection laws.

A fine of MVR191,250 (US$12,400) was imposed for uprooting trees from the capital’s southern waterfront without permission, according to statements released Thursday by the Environment Protection Agency.

The ministry was fined MVR20,000 for carrying out the Malé ring road project without a mandatory environmental impact assessment. The third fine of MVR60,000 was imposed for violating the environmental approval for the Fuvahmulah ring road project.

The ministry was told to pay the fines within 30 days.

On Sunday, it was penalised for pumping out groundwater in Malé without the EPA’s permission.

It was the fourth fine imposed on the ministry this week by an environmental watchdog that was largely toothless before the president’s election defeat on September 23.

The ministry ignored concerns over lack of an environmental impact assessment when decade-old trees on the outskirts of Malé were cut down in April.

A long section of the outer ring road was paved with tar and widened for the opening of the Sinamalé bridge that connects the capital to Hulhumalé.

The housing ministry promised around 450 trees will be planted after the expansion.

Top EPA officials told the Maldives Independent at the time that they were prevented from warning the ministry to stop the road construction.

“There are several concerns, especially with the cutting down of age-old trees around Malé. Regulations stipulate that any work that is to be carried out on this scale needs an EPA-approved environmental impact assessment.”

Sources said EPA bosses drafted a three-page letter to the housing ministry ordering it to stop all work on the project immediately, warning of fines if it pressed ahead without following regulations.

“But under new rules, letters from the EPA need approval from the environment ministry before they can be sent out,” said one source.

“When the letter got approved it was cut down to one page with just a general warning asking the housing ministry to be mindful of environmental concerns as they continue the project.”