Malé, Maldives – Indian company AFCONS Infrastructure , the contractor for Thila-Male’ Bridge has appealed the penalty of MVR 69 million by Maldives Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the damages caused to Vilimalé reef by the self-elevating bridge platform which got grounded.
The bridge platform which was brought in for geo-technical studies of the Thila-Male’ Bridge was removed on August 27, 2022 from the reef 12 days after it was grounded.
AFCONS was fined days after they submitted its own survey report of damages to Vilimale’ reef resulting from the wrecking of a self-elevating platform used in the construction of the bridge to the EPA after rejecting EPA’s official survey.
AFCONS has now appealed the fine to Environment Minister Aminath Shauna, to mitigate or review the amount of the EPA penalty.
Under the Penalties and Compensation for Environmental Damage Regulations, EPA decisions can be appealed to the Minister of the Environment.
On appeal, the Minister will decide whether to impose a fine or a relief.
According to local media reports, EPA did not agree with the findings of the report submitted by AFCONS stating that the the survey was done days after the actual wrecking. As per AFCONS report, the platform wrecking had only caused little damage to the reef.
According to initial comments and pictures from EPA and local NGO’s after the platform was removed, holes over 10 feet deep made by the legs of the platform were found on the reef.
Speaking to local media earlier, Director General of EPA, Ibrahim Naeem told that they had sent the initial assessment report to AFCONS for their comments upon which they rejected the report and company wants to carry out their own assessment to gauge the damages.
He also told that AFCONS has been given additional 7 days to comment on the report sent by EPA.
AFCONS had stated that the assessed area was much bigger and demanded to carry out their own survey after they rejected the offer to participate in the initial survey carried out by EPA after the platform was removed.
This comes while AFCONS had previously told that they will respect the decision of EPA after their assessment. Maldivian government had also said that AFCONS will not be treated differently for being an Indian company.
AFCONS also told that the platform grounding will not affect the scheduled completion dates of the project.
The bridge construction project was awarded to AFCONS India, to be completed by in three phases.
Phase I of the project linking Malé and Vilimalé will be complete by July 2023 and open to the public by 15 August 2023. Phase II will connect Vilimalé and Gulhifalhu and be complete by the end of 2023. Phase III linking Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi is expected to reach completion by November 2024.
Another AFCONS bridge construction project, the Addu City Hankede Bridge Project, suffered major damages due to monsoon sea swells earlier in July.
The Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP) includes a 6.7 km bridge and causeway network connecting Male, Villingili, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi and as per the current government this would be a national economic engine and lifeline connecting Hulhumale’, Hulhule’ and Male’ with the proposed Gulhifalhu Port and the Thilafushi Industrial Zone.
The project is being financed through a USD 400 million loan from EXIM Bank of India and with an additional USD 100 million grant from the Indian government. The agreement between EXIM Bank of India and the Maldivian government was signed on October 12, 2020. EXIM Bank informed that this loan would include a 5-year moratorium and a 20-year repayment period for the Maldivian government.
The new bridge includes three navigation bridges of 140 meter main span across the deep channel between each island, 1.41 km of marine viaduct in deep water, 2.32 km marine viaduct in shallow water or on land, and 2.96 km of at-grade roads. Bus terminals are also planned on each island near the junctions with the mainline and the project will use solar power for road lighting, navigation lighting, deck cell lighting, CCTV and lighting on sign gantry and architectural lighting.