Environment Opinion

Development or environment: A dilemma for Maldivians

March 12 11:14 2017

“Pretending that we have to choose between the economy and the environment is as harmful as it is wrong” – Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister.

The news of the Saudi royal family’s desire to invest billions of dollars in a Special Economic Zone development project echoed loudly on local media recently. Many locals including several parliament members have raised concerns over losing sovereign rights of Faafu Atoll from this project. The Special Economic Zones Act allows foreign ownership of land for a period of 99 years and provisions on residency to foreign nationals within the SEZ.

Legal interpretations of the Act are essential to understand the implications of such a project to sovereignty of islands acquired under the SEZ Act. Below are a few clauses quoted from the Act for readers to ponder;

Clause 80: on SEZ residency

(b) Maldives government shall take necessary steps under relevant laws to grant SEZ residency for foreign nationals or companies who enter contracts to purchase or lease a right to use luxury villas bungalows condominiums and other residential properties inside zones and such residency shall be granted for the duration of the subsistence of that right.

Under schedule one on incentives granted to zones:

(b) Other incentives developer could receive by negotiation and on advice of the board

3. Leasing of land to foreign companies for 66 years; and a further lease for 33 years under a supplementary agreement signed along with the first agreement;

Projects of this nature not only have socio-economic and cultural impacts on local communities, but can also affect the coastal marine environment significantly. Hence, to further understand the environmental issues associated with such projects a brief understanding of geology of the Maldivian reef system is crucial.

Full details are available from the link below:

Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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