A staff member at a tourist resort in Olhuveli island on December 2, 2006. EFE-EPA FILE/David Chang

HRW says Maldives violating environmental regulations

New Delhi, Oct 18 (EFE).- Nonprofit Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday urged Maldives, one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, to respect its own environmental protection laws following the impact of land reclamation projects in the country on local inhabitants.

“While the international community needs to do more to help the Maldives adapt to climate change, the Maldives doesn’t get a free pass to ignore its own environmental laws and international obligations,” Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at HRW, said.

The Maldives, made up of hundreds of islands and highly vulnerable to rising sea level due to its low altitude, has undertaken a series of land reclamation projects that are “rushed, lack proper mitigation and monitoring, and proceed without adequate public consultation,” according to HRW.

These include large-scale projects such as the construction of an airport on the island of Kulhudhuffushi, which began in 2017 and led to the destruction of a protected mangrove forest.

The loss of the mangroves has had a direct, negative effect on local communities.

“Residents have said that flooding has become more frequent and severe because the mangroves that had provided a natural protection had been destroyed,” according to the HRW report, which denounced that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report warned of this negative impact but its recommendations were not implemented by the Maldivian authorities.

Also, one of Maldives’ largest land reclamation projects in Addu to facilitate tourism development, first proposed by former president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in 2018, threatens to have “long term irreversible negative impacts, according to the EIA report.

“The reclamation project’s impact will be greatest on communities whose livelihoods depend on the reef’s marine life,” HRW warned.

The organization also denounced a general lack of monitoring of the environmental impact during the construction phase of a project and after its completion, and called on the newly elected Maldives president, Mohamed Muizzu, to ensure that human rights and environmental protection are part of the country’s development policies. EFE