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EPA yet to see impact assessment for Kulhudhufushi airport

The Environmental Impact Assessment report for developing an airport on Kulhudhufushi after reclaiming the northern island’s mangrove has yet to be submitted, sources from the Environment Protection Agency has confirmed.

The government’s plans to begin dredging the environmentally sensitive wetland area sparked an outcry from islanders and environmentalists.

Ibrahim Naeem, the EPA’s director general, hung up the phone when the Maldives Independent asked about the EIA report on Monday. The consultant who conducted the assessment earlier this year also declined to comment.

The law requires a one-month period to seek public opinion after the EIA report is submitted for approval by the EPA.

But Ibrahim Ziyath, CEO of the state-owned Maldives Transport and Contract Company, told the press on Sunday that the company’s new dredger Mahaa Jaharaff will dock at the Kulhudhufushi harbour this week.

President Abdulla Yameen will inaugurate the reclamation project during November, after which some 6.21 hectares will be reclaimed in 180 days, he said.

Developing an airport on Kulhudhufushi, the main population hub in the northern atolls, was a campaign pledge Yameen made in August 2013, despite an international airport located on the nearby island of Hanimadhoo, a 25-minute speedboat ride away.

Environmental groups stress that the mangrove is home to endangered species and serves as a natural defence system by collecting and draining rainwater. Local women also gather coconut husk from the dense mangrove forest for weaving coir rope.

But the housing and infrastructure minister on Sunday dismissed concerns over the airport development as politically motivated.

“When [they are] certain that President Yameen will build an airport in H. DH Kulhudhuffushi, [they are] putting political agenda above citizen’s progress because they have run out of options,” he said.

Photo from Twitter

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