WHO SHOULD POLICE THE ENVIRONMENT?

According to the EIA Report prepared by Government Authorized Consultant (after the project was started without an EIA) the proposed Holiday Inn, Henveiru Ameeneege is designed, built and operated to worldwide standards of Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG), including the 2007 standard “green line” Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG)’s response to Global Warming.

Henveiru Ameeneege

This is the first time in the Maldives a deep pile foundation structure is constructed. This also could be the first on an atoll island too. A total of 256 x 255 mm steel H piles are to be driven into more than 100 feet of the bedrock of Male. Pile driving into the bedrock has caused noise and vibration, causing physical damages to the buildings in the vicinity. Structural damage has been observed in nearby Dharumavantha School, raising concerns about the safety of students when the new academic year opens in the second week of January.

deep pile foundation

Piling started on 16 September 2007 and continued till 22 September 2007. The work was disrupted due to public complaints of noise and damages to nearby buildings. However, permission was granted on 22 December 2007 to go ahead after carrying out an EIA.

On 2 January 2008, the project was suspended for further review by the Ministry of Environment. However, the work has been resumed on 4 January 2008 with a permission issued by Ministry of Construction and Public Works to resume the work, without consulting the Ministry of Environment, according to Television Maldives.

cracks cracks

The Environmental Protection and Preservation Act 1993 says that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be submitted to the Ministry of Environment before “implementing any activity that impact on the environment.”

Why wasn’t an EIA done before initiating the hotel project especially as this is the first time that deep piling techniques are used in the Maldives? How appropriate is this technique for a coral island? This project has shown the lack of coordination between the concerned government agencies such as Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Construction and Public Infrastructure, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Male’ Municipality. This raises the question of who should be policing the environment.

Related news articles

http://www.minivannews.com/news/news.php?id=3983
http://www.minivandaily.com/component/option,com_magazine/func,show_article/id,6026/
http://www.minivandaily.com/component/option,com_magazine/func,show_article/id,6066/
http://haveeru.com.mv/?page=details&id=62403&cat=search
http://www.traveldailynews.com/new.asp?newid=35382&subcategory_id=59

17 Comments »

  1. Razr said,

    January 5, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

    I feel Min. of Environment did their part by suspending the project. And I further feel they should sue both Min. of Construction and Holiday Inn just like the way they sued Male’ Municipality sometime back.

  2. hageegaiy said,

    January 5, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

    environment ministry failed to do their duty because they didnt ask for an EIA in the first place. environment minister ahmed abdulla’s son Nabeel is involved in the project. so the ministry didnt do their job properly. engineers at construction ministry thinks this is their pet project because a new technique is being tested in maldives. they are sacrificing the environment and using male’ as an experiment. abdul sattar ali (sato) has enough money to buy out engineers. where are all eminent engineers and technical people who were so concerned about the planned city hotel in lonuziyaaraiykolhu of male’? why are they staying silent over this issue?

  3. RatuSir said,

    January 5, 2008 @ 9:24 pm

    Its interesting to note that the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development rejected the design of Holiday Inn and instructed Male’ Municipality to reject the design and for MCPI to instruct the submitters to make changes to the design so as to avoid what is happening now. The issues coming out now was identified then, but Housing Ministry’s advice was ignored and approval given by Male’ Municipality and MCPI. Written documentation of the advice sent to all parties by MHUD exists.

    Question is: who is responsible? MHUD because they cant enforce their regulations? MCPI and Municipality for their negligence?

    Rumors abound that the President of Male’ Municipality before he was transferred elsewhere approved the design without informing anyone (insert kickbacks/bribes n all that). We can see the consequences of this decision now.
    You’re right to say there is lack of co-ordination between the ministries. This problems exists everywhere in the current government, along with the power plays of the different ministers.
    By the way I don’t work either in MHUD, MCPI, MEEW or Municipality.

  4. moyameehaa said,

    January 5, 2008 @ 10:53 pm

    ofcourse it is the environment ministry.and it is a responsibility of the government , parliament and also the people (to make sure others do their job).but this is how things have always been. the government have no interest in professional opinion of ERC or the ministry,especially when it comes to campaign time. a good example is the hulhumale’ ferry terminal.i think the people should know how the government totally ignored the environmental factor that time also.protecting the environment is like protecting us and also protecting our future generations..so why the hell spend all money on MNDF and MPS and not on protecting the environment.weve gotta stop this madness.
    and talking about policing… i heard some katheeb taking sand from one of our beaches to welcom gayoom.and a lot of ‘protected’ areas and things are not very ‘ protected’.

  5. analyzer said,

    January 6, 2008 @ 4:26 am

    Take a look at the EIA report. http://www.erc.gov.mv/images/stories/Ameneege/Ameeneege.pdf
    Just after page 47 of the EIA, there is a Building Permit issued on 18 July 2007 by Male’ Municipality. The permit is for a concrete structure while the Holiday Inn hotel is going to be a steel structure. This shows how competent Municipality officials were when they issued the permit. Just after the Building Permit, there is the TOR issued by Environment Ministry for conducting the EIA. The footer of the TOR is “ToR for harbor rehabilitation at R.Ungoofaru, B.Kendho, N.Manadhoo, AA.Mathiveri, Hdh Makunudhoo &
    Th.Hirilandhoo”. Looks like officials in Male’ Municipality, Environment Ministry and Construction Ministry did a very rush job to approve this project when it was temporarily stopped in September 2007.

  6. Shameem said,

    January 7, 2008 @ 10:56 am

    “This also could be the first on an atoll island too.” – Why don’t you check your facts first before resorting to conjecture?

    “where are all eminent engineers and technical people who were so concerned about the planned city hotel in lonuziyaaraiykolhu of male’? why are they staying silent over this issue?”

    This is a private land, not the last remaining public space which was the main concern of the engineers and technical people with regard to the city hotel in lonuziyaaraiykolhu, Male’.

  7. faire for people said,

    January 10, 2008 @ 4:35 am

    Is blue peace only concerned about the cracks and environment only when it concerns Mr. Protocol’s home? What about us poor people. We had crack when our neighbors build his place to 8 stories. No one was hopping on their legs for us.

  8. Bluepeace said,

    January 10, 2008 @ 11:38 pm

    From an environmental perspective Bluepeace is more concerned that an EIA was not made before this project. We wonder if this is a proven and tested technology for a coral island. We are concerned about the possible impacts on the bedrock of Male’ and on the reef. We are not explicitly saying that deep piling techniques are inappropriate but we are raising our concerns that without a proper EIA such projects and experiments should not be started. Cracks on nearby buildings is of secondary concern to us. But we are worried that a school is next to the project site.

  9. karisma said,

    January 13, 2008 @ 3:54 am

    YOu say that you are concerned about the possible impacts on the bedrock of Male’ and on the reef. Were you aware that the new Harbour was build using deep piling? Has there been any evidence of irreversible damage to the bedrock and reef of Male? As you know it is the same reef even if there is no land above it. Why have you not raised the matter before when the Harbour was made?.

    As you know the biggest concern to the Maldives currently is global warming and sea level rise. It is a scientifically proven fact that emissions from the use of fuel in cars/motor cycles and the use of such appliances such as airconditioners and fridges contribute to global warming? Why arent you concerned about this and trying to stop this in Male? Do Bluepeace members know what their carbon footprint is? Do they use any vehicles that emit CFCs? dont you think you are being unethical here?

    You are just insinuating things that you have no scientific basis or any concrete proof? Instead of just “wondering” if this is a proven and tested technology for a coral island, why dont you find the facts first. The EIA obviously stated that this is an environment friendly method. If so why are you refusing to believe it, without having any evidence yourself to the contrary.

    You are just infringing on someone’s constitutional right to build on their private property. I would have thought that a respectable NGO would have hard facts before they try to do this.

    But to be fair on Bluepeace, I personally believe that Bluepeace is an unwitting innocent party to a family feud!

  10. Familyibilees said,

    January 14, 2008 @ 2:27 am

    Because there is some talk of this being a family fued I thought I’ll just shed some more light on how much this thing runs in the family.

    The developer of the hotel leased the land (on which the hotel is being constructed) through his sister-in-law who owns the land. The developer brother in law is incidentally married to the Environment Minister’s niece, who approved the hurried and shoddily done EIA. The brother-in-law’s ex-wife is a close relative of the Minister of Construction and Public Infrastructure, who approved the controversial construction methodology at the heart of the issue. The Construction minister is incidentally first cousins with the Minister of Education under whose competence falls Dharumavantha School,which has sustained the most structural damage. The education minister’s silence is very conspicuous in what is is obviously a family drama of Hindi soap opera proportions.

  11. afu said,

    January 14, 2008 @ 2:51 am

    i’d like to reply to a comment posted here by a certain ‘karisma’… to reproduce an often used cliche of the times, ‘with rights come responsibilities’… family feud or not, these responsibilities have to be borne while they exercise their rights. you ask, ‘Why have you not raised the matter before when the Harbour was made?’. this might be the first time, or to be generous, one of the few times, you’ve been concerned with environmental issues. bluepeace has been involved in creating awareness for the past 15 years; how do you know they have not raised their concerns about irreversible damages to bedrock in the past? its only recently that environnmental issues have been given much attention. most people have remained ignorant, and largely because efforts of many parties such as bluepeace have not been given due attention or publicity. which of course leads people to questions as you do, why have they done nothing before? just because you are not aware of the facts. this ignorance is obvious when you talk about CFC emissions contributing to global warming. this is confusing the public – CFC is an agent that depletes the ozone layer and in fact the Maldives has a ban on it. not to be rude, but please get your facts straight.

  12. concrete evidence said,

    January 14, 2008 @ 9:06 am

    I am a Bluepeace member and I think Karisma’s comments are off mark. After reading the blog post by Bluepeace, I see that Bluepeace’s concern is about how the EIA was done after starting the project and “the lack of coordination between government ministries.” I don’t think Bluepeace is “just infringing on someone’s constitutional right to build on their private property.” How can Bluepeace say with absolute facts that this will damage the environment when even the environment ministry is not certain? When there is the possibility of damage to environment, then concern should be raised. It is up to the government ministries to say definitely that there will be no damage. As far as the EIA is concerned, it is a poorly done work as Analyzer said, and done by a consultant appointed by the contractor. Nobody should believe that EIA. I don’t think deep piling was used in Male’ Harbour. I think it was sheet piling, which is a totally different thing. Then again I may be wrong and you can tell me to verify facts before commenting. Knowing that there is a crack on the eastern reef of Male’ I am more worried about that than global warming and CFC in my refrigerator. I hope Bluepeace will stay out of any family feuds in this, but be courageous to raise concerns about possible damages to environment. Bluepeace should do that with or without concrete evidence (no pun intended) of structural or fabric damage to environment. This whole fiasco is showing nothing but the incompetency of government in protecting the environment.

  13. shafeeg said,

    February 16, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

    I am just a normal person, not an engineer in respect to environment. However, I have to say that Male’ is already over crowded. The wealthy people, just like the government is responsible for making the capital city a concrete block. THere is hardly any space for trees to grow. With each of the project like this, there will no doubt be an influx of people to add to the already existing over crowd. Besides, I wonder whether there is any engineer who has done any testing in Male’ or for that matter any research after their graduation. Just because they were taught that in developed countries these methods works does not mean it is suitable for Male’. The consequences of pervious harbour piling etc is to be seen in Male’ with the damage to the reef it has occured. When would this stop.

  14. Yaamyn said,

    March 1, 2008 @ 11:56 pm

    @Karisma :
    I think Bluepeace has asked a very appropriate question. It is quite standard to do an Environmental Impact Assessment when carrying out a large construction in a region as fragile as our coral islands. However, in this case, it was quite clearly not done until the project had taken off and protests began pouring in.
    The cracks on nearby building are indeed a cause for concern, especially with the safety of schoolchildren at risk, as the article points out.
    Oh, and the Maldives is nowhere near to being a contributor towards global warming. We’re 300,000 something people with no CFCs! :p

  15. Oi Iya Vattalau said,

    March 3, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

    excellent that bluepeace has taken and brought up the issue. we have to protest against such unsuitable options of putting up business tycoons business settlements killing others.

  16. sanity-in said,

    June 17, 2008 @ 9:28 am

    The article raises some very valid questions, however the article is basically written with an environmental focus as clearly the title suggests. the Athireege issue, in my opinion is less of an environmental issue than it is a regulatory and a structural issue. One of the issues, as the article rightfully highlights the lack of co-ordination of the relevant government ministries. the problem is not just lack of inter-agency co-ordination, but also, the gaps and overlaps which exists in the exiting regulatory framework, capacity and the complexity of the physical development of Male’. there are gaps in the planning regulations, construction standards, and the environment act and regulations.

    The necessary mechanisms to deal with the complex urban development issues simply do not exist and that is the core issue. to state examples, there is no construction standards (Building Code, etc) which should in effect provide a unified set of rules for people to follow.
    the EIA regulations are simply another layer of beaurocracy and seems to have been developed from just one dimension. it does not for such example refer to any other regulations such as Male’ Planning Regulations (which by the way are developed with representation from the environmental authorities). in itself, the EIA Act and regulations are very powerful, but is practice vague and unenforceable, and uncoordinated to other regulations in existence. According to the EIA regulations, you and will need to do an EIA for even cooking biriyani in the house, anything we do has “an impact on the environment”.

  17. sanity-in said,

    June 17, 2008 @ 10:06 am

    “where are all eminent engineers and technical people who were so concerned about the planned city hotel in lonuziyaaraiykolhu of male’? why are they staying silent over this issue?”

    As one of the authors of the Male hotaa report, the reason I would say is precisely as Shamem has said in his comment:

    “This is a private land, not the last remaining public space which was the main concern” with regards to the city hotel in lonuziyaaraiykolhu, Male’.”
    Infringing on a private citizens right to develop his/her land as per the existing planning/ development procedures is professionally unethical and everyone operates within their own set of boundaries. If people fail to see the difference, its their perogative.

    The developers of Athireege appear to have followed existing regulatory procedures and commenced the project upon receipt of a planning permit. If an EIA is a requirement, it should be stipulated in male’ Planning regulations. if the permit was acquired through corruption, it is a matter for the courts. individual authorities making isolated decisions is not the most effive course of action.

    We have highlighted the development issues on Male’ in the report and there are many more, such as regulating land uses, etc. (warehousing and workshops on residential land, which also have impacts on peoples lives and the environment). the report was very focused and the main issue was leasing the limited public land available for the development of a massive hotel on one of the only remaining open areas on this island.

    having said that, if the government had valid reasons to stop the development after reassessing the situation, they should in my opinion have issued a joint ruling on this particular issue, provided a clear set of action for the developers to follow and provided appropriate compensation.

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