During the last few years, we have been witnessing a rapid human encroachment on the terrestrial vegetation, reef and wetland ecosystems of uninhabited islands and inhabited islands in the Maldives. Impacts on these islands in the Maldives are unprecedented, their scale and speed alarming. Habour dredging, channel blasting with dynamite and massive reclamation projects – many without proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – are in progress. Never before have we seen such a scale of coastal modification and change in the topography of islands of the Maldives.
Hudhufushi Island of Lhaviyani Atoll
The Maldives is a party to the Biodiversity Convention, Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Under these treaties the Maldives has obligations to ensure the conservation and protection of habitats and species in both national and international context.
Of course, in order to meet these national and international obligations the Government has declared some protected marine areas and few terrestrial sites. These designated protected sites are poorly managed and monitored. These sites are declared protected on papers. Some argue these marine protected areas are protected for divers. Thousands of divers go diving in these designated marine areas annually; their impact on the fragile coral ecosystems still need to be assessed.
There are instances where islands with rich biodiversity and ecological significance are selected for industrial activities such as tourism. The use of such islands for industrial purposes causes negative environmental impacts on the islands and loss of rich natural biodiversity for the country. Such a classic example is Hudhufushi island of Lhaviyani Atoll, selected for development as a tourist resort. Hudhufushi, with a unique V-shape forming a natural bay, makes it one of the richest islands in marine biodiversity in the Maldives. Baby sharks and rays flourish in that area.
Hudhufushi and Dhiffushimaadhoo are located in the same lagoon. It is one of the richest natural heritage sites in the Maldives. In fact these islands are still evolving; in the case of Dhifushimaadhoo, it was originally four islands, namely, Dhiffushi, Maadhoo, Shalhlhifushi and Hiriyaadhoo.
Hudhufushi-Dhifushimaadhoo area should be left intact from human encroachment and preserved as natural heritage for benefit of present and future generation.
Bluepeace had raised concerns in the past about impacts on island biodiversity and ecosystems from the selection of uninhabited islands for tourism and other industrial activities.