Reclamation has commenced for the bund wall being constructed through the mangrove swamp of Haa Dhaal atoll Kulhudhuffushi island.
The government initiated project to develop a domestic airport in Kulhudhuffushi requires the reclamation of six hectares of the island’s western lagoon and nine hectares of its mangrove swamp. The bund wall in development will separate the area of the swamp to be reclaimed from the rest of the wetlands.
According to Kulhudhuffushi Island Council’s president Abdul Latheef, a strip of land has been reclaimed from the northern shore to the midway point of the swamp.
“One third of the bund wall is done,” he said, revealing that the bund wall measures eight feet in width.
Meanwhile, construction of the bund wall has already been completed around the area of the lagoon to be reclaimed.
The government had initially planned to develop the airport on the seaward side of Kulhudhuffushi; however the location was switched to the mangrove area over lack of sufficient land area.
The shift had sparked immediate outcry from the island’s residents as well as environmentalists across the nation, as Kulhudhuffushi’s swamp is one of the largest in the northern atolls and is notable for its rich biodiversity, including several endangered species of mangroves.
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project has advised the government to relocate the endangered species that inhabit the mangrove to a place with similar environmental conditions before commencing the reclamation project. The EIA had estimated that the species can be moved in three to four months. The government is also required to provide at least a month for the public to submit their opinions before the EIA is fully finalised.
However, thirteen associations had released a joint statement on Tuesday, calling on the state to halt destruction of the swamp and accusing the environment ministry of violating procedures regarding environment protection.
Despite the harsh criticism, preparations are fully underway to commence the airport development. While the bund wall is already under construction, Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC)’s newest dredger has been docked at Kulhudhuffushi to reclaim the swamp, which will commence on November 12.
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