Kendhoo MP Ali Hussain says Environmental Impact Assessment reports were being designed by manipulating the loopholes within regulations to accommodate for removal of trees in greater numbers from residential islands for projects run in the name of development.
He made the allegation in a resolution he presented to the Parliament this Tuesday, which calls for an immediate cease in the practice of removal of trees from residential islands for landscaping at tourist properties.
Ali Hussain warned that the practice had reached dangerous levels over the past four years.
He also said that the beginning of the practice would be traced back to the MMPRC scandal – when trees were uprooted from residential islands and used to landscape the artificial islands built on the many lagoons leased during the period.
“Following public outrage over the practice, we next saw Environmental Impact Assessment reports being designed by manipulating the loopholes within existing regulations to accommodate for removal of trees in greater numbers from residential islands for projects run in the name of development,” reads his resolution.
He said that the practice of tree removals continued by creating and successfully approving EIA reports for projects which involved building roads through thick forests, and ring roads around islands – allowing trees to be uprooted in preparation for the projects – all run in the name of ‘development’.
He specified a case which took place earlier this October which involved removal of trees in large number from three residential islands in H. A. Atoll and were transported to a reclaimed tourist property in K. Atoll.
He included details of the case in his resolution. Which are:
Ali Hussain said that the case was alarming, and that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had only intervened following public outrage.
He said that the allowance of removal of trees from residential islands by using development projects as a pretense was being carried out unchecked, and without thought to future consequences.
Other cases noted in the resolution:
Ali Hussain said that the removal of trees from residential islands without consideration of the environmental damage or adherence to regulations amounted to gross negligence, and was a great injustice to local residents.
He said that it was evident the practice of removal of trees from residential islands to landscape the islands and lagoons linked to the MMPRC scandal, and with disregard to the purpose and spirit of environmental regulations had continued into the current administration.
He said that it had been evident from the press conference held by Environment Ministry and EPA in May to share the Regulation on Uprooting Palms and Trees that the regulation, instead of being designed to protect trees, was instead designed to accommodate removal of trees for landscaping at tourist properties.
Ali Hussain said that the Environment Ministry had failed to revise the regulation in accordance with public opinion as it had promised, and called for immediate revisions to establish that trees which must be removed for necessary developmental projects must be replanted at the island from which the trees are removed itself, or the closest public area next to the location from which the trees are removed.
He said that it has been five months since the Environment Ministry sought written suggestions from the public, and four months since it held a public forum to revise the regulation.
He said that relevant state agencies had therefore failed to give the issue necessary priority despite it promoting ‘climate emergency board’ to secure funds from foreign investors.