Environmental destruction case against the government regarding Gulhifalhu Project goes to trial

Gulhifalhu land reclamation project. | Photo via SunMv

Malé, Maldives – The Civil Court of Maldives today scheduled trial dates for the case against the government by a private citizen regarding the environmental destruction caused by the Gulhifalhu Project.

On September 2, private citizen Humaidha Abdul Ghafoor filed a case against the Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology and the Ministry of National Planning, Housing & Infrastructure regarding the environmental destruction caused by the Gulhifalhu project.

Humaidha stated that the project will obliterate the Hans Hass Place, a protected marine site since 1995. She further added that the environmental destruction from the project is clearly explained in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report released in April 2020.

In June 2020, a motion was filed at the Maldives Parliament regarding the destruction caused to the Villimalé reef by the Gulhifalhu Project. Humaidha states that instead of addressing the environmental impact of the project, the parliament added conditions about housing and approved the project continuation.

The government of Maldives exploiting the environment and ecosystems in the name of “development” is a dangerous notion that will leave irrecoverable negative impacts for generations to come.

Humaidha Abdul Ghafoor

Article 22 of the Maldives Constitution states that,

The State has a fundamental duty to protect and preserve the natural environment, biodiversity, resources and beauty of the country for the benefit of present and future generations. The State shall undertake and promote desirable economic and social goals through ecologically balanced sustainable development and shall take measures necessary to foster conservation, prevent pollution, the extinction of any species and ecological degradation from any such goals.

The first dispute resolution hearing for the Gulhifalhu court case on 23 September 2021. The resolution stage came to a close with state lawyers said that there is no avenue to resolve the case at the dispute resolution phase. Both the plaintiff and defendant agree on proceeding to trial.

The Gulhifalhu reclamation project, estimated to cost USD 120 million (MVR 1.86 billion) was launched by the government on May 6, 2020 to facilitate the relocation of the Male’ Commercial Port and create accommodation for 40,000 expatriates. The parliament later added the condition for housing with 1,200 plots assigned to the Malé locals.

The first phase of the Gulhifalhu project, contracted to the Dutch dredging company, Boskalis Westminster Contracting Ltd, for USD 53 million (MVR 817 million) was completed in January 2021.

The EPA report regarding the Gulhifalhu Project has a “No-Project Alternative” that if chosen would result in beneficial impacts consisting of environmental factors while adverse impacts lean toward economic factors.