The heritage ministry has condemned an island council in Faafu atoll for excavating a historical site using heavy machinery.
The Bilehdoo council used an excavator to dig out an ancient bathing well last week despite instructions from the ministry to stop the work as extreme care was needed to conserve such sites.
“This ministry started closely monitoring the situation after we became aware that the site was listed on the gazetted register of historical sites. The council was asked to stop the work via phone calls and in writing. However, the council continued the work,” the heritage ministry said in statement Saturday.
Specialised treatment and precautions were needed to prevent “irreversible damage,” it added, accusing the council of violating laws on the protection of artefacts and historical sites.
But the council defended the use of heavy machinery and insisted the bath stone was not damaged when the excavation was completed on Thursday.
An excavator was only used to uproot a coconut palm and the rest was dug out very carefully with shovels, the council president told Raajje TV.
“We asked the elderly to find the place because we wanted to protect it,” he said.
State Minister for Heritage Mohamed Thoriq told the station last week that a heritage bill is part of the new administration’s legislative agenda. Once the new law is passed, a mandatory “heritage assessment” must be conducted before approving land for projects, he said.