The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said that the massive reclamation project in Addu City would go forward regardless of the damage the project would do to the region's environment and economy.
The EPA's Director General Mohamed Naeem told The Maldives Journal that every project does damage to the environment, but this was no reason to stop the project.
He said that even though the project would go on even if it does cause a billion dollars in damage.
"Every project causes a lot of damage to the environment. Even if the environment is damaged, the project should go on while minimising that damage", said Naeem.
The Addu Development Project, funded by a MVR 1 billion loan granted by India's EXIM bank, would oversee the reclamation of a total 236.5 hectares of land in Addu City.
This would include 198.3 hectares from Addu's inhabited islands of Hithadhoo, Maradhoo, Maradhoo-Feydhoo, and Hulhumeedhoo, and would also include 3 islands of 8.3 hectares each and 2 islands of 5 hectares each to be reclaimed from within Addu City's lagoon. The islands would be developed further as tourist resorts.
The Environment Impact Assessment report prepared for the project states that the impact of the reclamation project would cause more than MVR 1 billion in damages. The report includes the direct impact on the local environment and also the estimated losses that would be incurred due to the impact that the damage to the environment would have on the tourism industry.
Transparency Maldives along with several environmentalist organisations have called for the reclamation project to be stopped due to the negative impact it would have on the environment.
The government has not issued any statements which would indicate that the project would be changed to minimise the impact on the environment. Environment Minister Aminath Shauna was unavailable for comment.
The reclamation of 236.5 hectares of land would see the destruction of 21 hectares of coral reefs and 120 hectares rich in seagrass.
The EIA report calculates that 120 hectares of seagrass results in 674 tonnes of carbon absorption per year; they calculate its monetary benefit to the atmospheric system at USD 4.5 million per year.
The estimated destruction of 21 hectares of coral reefs was evaluated at a minimum USD 343 million (assuming that only 10% of the destroyed coral reef was alive) and a maximum USD 858 million (assuming that more than 50% of the destroyed coral reef had been alive), as per the fines imposed for causing harm to the environment as prescribed by Maldivian law. This amounts to MVR 13.2 billion.
The EIA report had also mentioned that the lagoons of Addu City was a habitat for many species of marine life; the project could permanently reduce the numbers of marine life inhabiting the lagoon.
The EIA report evaluates the benefit of underwater tourism for Addu City at USD 232 million. As a result of the land reclamation project, the report says that the numbers of rays and sharks visible in Addu City's waters would decline significantly, and this would cause a loss of USD67 million per year for Addu City.