Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has intervened to stop removal of palms and trees from H. A. Kelaa by a private party.
The practice of removal of vegetation from residential islands for landscaping at reclaimed lagoons and sandbanks developed as tourist properties - though currently regulated - is an issue of keen concern to local environmental activists.
The issue is currently at the forefront once again with recent reports of removal of vegetation from several islands in H. A. Atoll; Kelaa, Baarah and Foakaidhoo.
Speaking during a press conference this Sunday, State Environment Minister Dr. Ali Naseer said that both the Environment Ministry and the EPA monitored removal of vegetation at residential islands to ensure it is conducted legally.
He confirmed that the EPA had recently intervened to stop removal of vegetation from Kelaa.
“And we are taking necessary action in response to this,” said Dr. Naseer.
Though he announced the EPA had intervened to stop tree removal from Kelaa, he said that the vegetation removed from Baarah were from a plot of land which is to be cleared for a sanitation project. He said that the EPA, following an Environmental Impact Assessment, had approved the private party engaged in the removal of vegetation from the land a permit to uproot more than 600 palms and trees.
Meanwhile, the Foakaadhoo Council told Sun that the removal of vegetation in progress at the island is also legal. It said that the vegetation is being removed from land scheduled to be cleared for construction of a powerhouse, a community center, and development of a road.
Dr. Naseer, during this Sunday’s press conference, acknowledged that state authorities found it challenging to monitor where the vegetation actually ends up in after they are uprooted and transported out of residential islands.
He, however, provided assurance state authorities would not overlook any report of clearance and transportation of vegetation.
“At least 20 percent of the vegetation which are removed need to be planted again at the islands we issue permits to,” said Dr. Naseer.
EPA’s Director-General Dr. Ibrahim Mohamed said that the EPA ensured that the regulation which requires vegetation removed from residential islands are replaced is enforced.
He said that three residential islands which were issued permits had provided proof it had planted two palms for every palm removed from the islands.
“We are doing everything required from our end. We continue to monitor to ensure two palms are planted to replace every palm removed from additional islands, as stipulated in our permits,” said Dr. Ibrahim.