Special ops dispersed protesters outside the environment ministry Thursday ahead of the destruction of mangroves in Kulhudhuffushi to make way for a new airport.
The demonstrators gathered outside the ministry with placards, demanding an urgent meeting as dredging and reclaiming the environmentally sensitive wetland area is thought to start next month.
The protesters raised their concerns with ministry official Ajwad Musthafa, who came outside to try and get them to leave. The group made it clear to him they were concerned individuals waiting for a meeting and not just protesters.
“Where was the due procedure followed with the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment)? The dredger is already at Kulhudhuffushi, but the EIA is still open for public comments,” said one person.
Police officers who went to the scene asked demonstrators to put away the placards. Specialist Operations officers who followed informed people they were not allowed to stay in front of the ministry.
“Ministry officials requested police back-up because the citizens were disrupting their work,” a police spokesman told the Maldives Independent.
But those at the protest denied this was the case.
“We requested a meeting with the minister and were waiting to get a response from the ministry. We didn’t disrupt the work of the ministry and saying that we did is false information. They are accusing us of a crime we didn’t commit,” said Shahindha Ismail.
Those at the demonstration explained why they were taking part.
“It’s important to save natural protected lands like mangroves. We don’t see mangroves everywhere. Such a unique place in Maldives would be a great attraction to tourists as well. It saves the citizens of the island from natural disasters as well. More people need to be talking against this,” said a 23-year old student from Maldives National University.
“The majority of the islanders don’t understand how it’s being funded, and that they’re investing in a loss,” said a 19-year old from Kulhudhuffushi.
In a separate development, the ruling party said President Abdulla Yameen would inaugurate the reclamation of Kulhudhuffushi on November 12.
The Maldives Transport and Contracting Company CEO Ibrahim Ziyath told news outlet Avas that preparatory work had already started. He also said they were waiting for permits to continue.
Photos from Auf Mohamed Majid