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Government seizes island leased for coral reef research

The government has moved to take back an island lease to Professor Hassan Ugail’s Korallion Lab for use as a marine station to conduct research on coral reefs.



The government has moved to take back an island lease to Professor Hassan Ugail’s Korallion Lab for use as a marine station to conduct research on coral reefs.

Moosa Ugail, managing director of Korallion Lab, confirmed that the government abruptly terminated the 21-year lease agreement for the island of Vavvaru in Lhaviyani atoll on Monday.

“The reason the government is giving is that reports were not submitted as required. However, we have always submitted all the reports via email to the fisheries and agriculture ministry and they acknowledged receiving the reports as well,” he previously told newspaper Mihaaru.

“They later informed that the lease was terminated because paper copies of the reports had not been submitted.”

A spokesman for the fisheries and agriculture ministry declined to comment on the termination.

Moosa’s brother, Hassan Ugail, a professor of visual computing at the University of Bradford, owns Korallion Lab.

Ugail, a renowned Maldivian academic who rarely comments on sensitive local issues, recently spoke out about the murder of liberal blogger Yameen Rasheed.

Korallion Lab is associated with well-known marine research and academic centres in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, such as the Newcastle University, Reef Check Italia, Woods Hole Oceanagraphic Institute and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The island of Vavvaru was leased to Korallion Lab in 2013 and the marine station was set up with a financial investment from foreign partners. The marine station has since conducted numerous studies about coral reef ecosystems in the Maldives.

Maldivian students have also visited the station on several field trips and scientists based on the island have conducted short-term courses free of charge at local colleges.

Ugail told the local daily that the abrupt termination was “regrettable” and a lost opportunity for the Maldives. He declined to comment further.