Dead dolphin found with puncture wound to head

A dolphin with a puncture wound to the head was found dead and stranded on Hoadedhdhoo Island in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll yesterday morning (July 17).

In the early morning hours of Tuesday a Hoadedhdhoo resident discovered the dead dolphin on the west side of the island – which faces away from the interior of the atoll towards the open sea.

The dolphin showed no signs of life, but had sustained a visible puncture wound which was bleeding onto the hard, flat coral that surrounds the island like a buffer.

“I think fishing boat people injured it because its head was bleeding. The dolphin looked like its head had a puncture from a fishing hook,” a Hoadedhdhoo government official told Minivan News today (July 17) on condition of anonymity.

This incident could be a potential issue for the Maldives’ fishing industry, which is known for its environmentally sustainable pole and line method, where no nets are allowed, preventing bycatch which makes it ‘dolphin safe’.

The source said he believed the dolphin must have died recently because there was no foul odor coming from the body at the time it was discovered.

A white object in the dolphin’s mouth was a piece of coral probably put there by small children that had been playing near the body, the source explained.

The source noted that “not a lot” of fishing boats are seen off the coast of Hoadedhdhoo. However, large pods of dolphins have been observed in the channel slightly north of Hoadedhdhoo.

About five or six years ago a small dolphin was found dead on the same side of the island, however it did not appear to have sustained any injuries, another Hoadedhdhoo resident told Minivan News on condition of anonymity.

Dolphins essential for Maldives’ ecosystem

Following the reported incident, Minivan News contacted the Maldives Marine Research Centre (MRC) to determine the species and age of the dead dolphin.

“From the characteristics of its body shape and erect dorsal fin, it appears to be a common spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris). They can be easily identified by a long slender beak with a black tip and black lips, while their bodies are mainly grey with three toned coloration,” MRC Assistant Research Officer Mariam Shidha told Minivan News today.

While it was difficult to determine the exact size of the deceased dolphin based on the photographs, it is “most likely to be an adult”, since adults range between 1.8 – 2.1 meters in size, while they mature at the size of 1.5 – 1.7 meters, explained Shidha.

“Dolphins are important to our ecosystem because they are apex (top level) predators which control the populations of fishes and squids to keep it all balanced,” Shidha emphasised.

She explained that stranding of cetacean species – a such as whales, dolphins, and porpoises – “do not happen that often” in Maldivian waters; at most two to three per year are reported.

“[Moreover,] in the Maldives its a very rare thing for a dolphin to be injured by a fishermen since they are not a bycatch of pole and line fisheries,” she said. “However, in the Pacific Ocean, fishermen sometimes purposefully catch dolphins as they use other [unsustainable] fishing methods in order to get to the yellowfin tunas that swim underneath dolphins.”

“The MRC has had no reports of such deliberate acts of abuse or harm to dolphins [in the Maldives],” said Shidha. However, any incidents of people harming dolphins or strandings should be reported to the MRC.

All dolphins and whales are protected under the Maldivian Law and almost all the species of dolphins found in Maldivian waters are listed in the IUCN’s red list of threatened species, noted Shidha.

The MRC is working to raise awareness about why dolphins are essential for the environment in the Maldives.

“We are educating the public on the importance of protecting these charismatic fauna which are so important for the functioning of the ecosystem,” emphasised Shidha. “Also we have held a Cetacean Symposium and outreach programs for school children.”

Fisheries Ministry

“When we find a [stranded] dolphin it’s important to know how it happened. However, I don’t know how we can investigate [in this case],” Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Ahmed Shafeeu told Minivan News today.

“The type of pole and line fishing we have [in the Maldives] is done in a way that doesn’t harm dolphins,” said Shafeeu. “We have not had reports of dolphins being caught, it’s very unlikely.”

“Although an accident or something can happen, in that case the dolphin should be released immediately,” he emphasised. “Catching dolphins in any way [intentional or unintentional] is not allowed by law.”

“Sometimes dolphins are found washed up on the shore [of an island]. In those cases the incident should be reported to the local island council,” explained Shafeeu. “[But] there is no specific regulation that requires island councils to report to national offices if an animal is found.”

“However, if there are concerns of malpractice or someone is known to be deliberately hurting an animal, then it should be reported [to the relevant authorities beyond the island level],” he added.

‘Dolphin safe’

Environmentally-friendly, sustainable pole and line fishing allows Maldives’ tuna to be certified as ‘dolphin safe’, enabling it to be sold as a “premium” product for the European and US markets.

The ‘dolphin safe’ certification is provided by the Earth Island Institute (EII), an international non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Earlier this year EII Associate Director Mark Berman explained to Minivan News that EII’s ‘dolphin safe’ policy requires that “no tuna company will deal in sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, whales, or their products. All efforts to minimise bycatch of these species is mandatory”.

A November 3, 2011 EII press statement read, “the Maldives tuna industry has adopted a policy to ensure that no dolphins are ever killed in tuna nets.”

“That Dolphin Safe standard is respected all over the world”, Dolphin Safe program Associate Director Mark Berman told Minivan News at the time. “Major tuna importing nations will not buy tuna from governments that harm dolphins.”

According to the EII website, the companies licensed with the dolphin-safe label must meet the following criteria:

  • No intentional chasing, netting or encirclement of dolphins during an entire tuna fishing trip;
  • No use of drift gill nets to catch tuna;
  • No accidental killing or serious injury to any dolphins during net sets;
  • No mixing of dolphin-safe and dolphin-deadly tuna in individual boat wells (for accidental kill of dolphins), or in processing or storage facilities;
  • Each trip in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP) by vessels 400 gross tons and above must have an independent observer on board attesting to the compliance with points (1) through (4) above

US government pledges US$9.7 million for Maldives climate change adaptation, election preparations

The United States government has pledged US$9.7 million (MVR 149 million) to the Maldives as technical assistance for climate change adaptation and election preparations.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two nations was signed yesterday afternoon (July 7) by the Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador-at-large Abdul Azeez Yoosuf and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Mission Director Todd Sorenson.

The United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Michele J Sison highlighted the importance of the agreement during the American Embassy’s Independence Day reception held last night (July 7) in Male’.

“The MoU will allow us to expand and enhance our bilateral cooperation, it is a truly special day… [it is my] sincere hope that the many ties that bind our two nations will grow ever stronger,” Sison stated.

Under the MoU, USAID will provide US$7.2 million for a global climate change adaptation project, and US$2.5 million as technical assistance for election preparations.

The Ambassador highlighted the importance of consolidating democracy and promoting the integrity of the electoral process prior to the September 7 presidential elections as the impetus for the US working with Maldivian partners to prepare for elections. One of the new programs covered under the MOU, through USAID, was launched by the U.S.-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

“These efforts will promote the integrity of the electoral process in Maldives in advance of the September 2013 presidential elections, but also support efforts aimed at the local council and parliamentary elections which are to follow [in 2014],” said Sison.

“The US has urged all parties all actors here to work together to chart a positive way forward that respects the Maldivian constitution, Maldivian democratic institutions, human rights and the will of the Maldivian people,” she continued.

“As such, we’ve called on all sides here to work closely together to ensure the elections in Maldives are free, fair, transparent, credible and inclusive and that the results are accepted by all stakeholders,” she added.

The US government in partnership with the UN is also “actively supporting” a small grants program for Maldivian civil society.

“Democracy – good governance – is not just about elections it’s about the process of governance and the interaction between the government and the people,” noted Sison. “Which is why… we are looking to support projects to enhance the democratic space and to effectively engage civil society organisations in promoting good governance.”

“The US is proud to be supporting Maldivian efforts to strengthen civil society and consolidate the democratic transition,” she added.

The Ambassador also reflected on the founding of the United States, the evolution of democracy within the country over the last 237 years, and the democratisation process in the Maldives. She noted the personal responsibility of citizens to strive toward a more perfect union by pushing forward, speaking out when there is injustice, and advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves, as President Barack Obama noted in a 2008 presidential campaign speech.

“I thought of those words – both of our founding fathers and of President Obama – as I thought about the Maldives, because in the coming weeks and months ahead, reflecting the vibrancy of Maldivian institutions, the Maldivian people will once again make their voices heard in a democratic process,” said Sison.

The American Embassy’s other current initiatives include “robust USAID projects” aimed at increasing Maldivian capacity to cope with the impact of climate change and improving water security. USAID is also working with the Maldivian government to identify additional areas of cooperation related to climate change adaptation.

The US is also becoming “increasingly active” in the Maldivian economic and commercial sector.

“I’m happy to report that a number of other US companies are looking to expand their operations here, their presence and investment in the Maldivian economy,” noted Sison.

Furthermore, US initiatives have also been extend to the education sector with the “Access English Language” teaching program – with programs in Male’, Addu City, and Kulhudhuffushi in Haa Dhaal Atoll – and “Access Microscholarship”.

“The goal of these english language enrichment microschoarlips is to enable Maldivian secondary school students to pursue higher education and to increase their employment opportunities – we hope – in the job market,” Sison explained.

She also noted that US is “very proud” that the cooperation, joint exercises, and training endeavours conducted with the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and the Maldives Police Service remain “very strong and robust”.

“The US knows that all of you are as committed as we are to the prosperity of Maldives, to the democracy of Maldives, and to the well being of Maldives. We hope to work together with you in a way that will inspire and benefit future generations of young Maldivians,” the ambassador concluded.

Maldives’ Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim assured the attendees of the US Embassy’s independence day event – who included the Indian High Commissioner Rajeev Shahare, various UN agency officials, and Maldivian government ministers – that the government of Maldives was committed to ensuring elections were “free, fair and competitive”.

“Exactly two months from today maldives will vote in a historic election to elect a president,” said Nazim.

“Free and fair elections are the strongest and most visible manifestations of a country’s democratic development. The Maldives remains committed to moving forward to consolidating democracy,” he stated. “We are continuing to further strengthen our democratic institutions.”

“We are grateful to the United States for the Maldives election program 2013-14 which will contribute profoundly to strengthen the capacity of state institutions and civil society organisations in preparing for the presidential elections,” he added.

Nazim also highlighted other “key global issues of mutual concern” both governments and working closely on, particularly in the areas of national defence, promoting democracy and the respect of fundamental human rights, as well as climate change adaptation.

“The Maldives-US defence cooperation which has been vital in enhancing our national defence capabilities,” he noted.

“Climate change is an existential threat to the Maldives. As a low-lying state, no country is more vulnerable and none is more committed to increasing investments in renewable energy,” said Nazim. “I salute President Obama for his recent initiative aimed at finding a global solution to the question of climate change.”

“Climate change is too critical an issue to be left unaddressed. We need to find solutions and be ready to make hard decisions and hard choices,” he added.

“The relationship is based on a solid foundation of friendship, shared beliefs, and mutual respect. The US continues to be a close partner of Maldives through diverse spheres and greatly contributes toward the socio-economic development of the country,” Nazim concluded.


Maldives’ first Marine National Park without land two years after government agreement

As the Maldives moves ahead with plans to transform itself into the world’s largest marine reserve by 2017, the country’s first Marine National Park (MNP) in Noonu Atoll has yet to receive land the government agreed would be set aside for the project back in 2011.

The Edu Faru MNP was established during the previous government through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Environment Ministry back in 2011 in order to protect nine islets in Noonu Atoll that would be kept in a “pristine” state and undeveloped for future research.

However, almost two years since the Maldives agreed to establish the MNP and a non-profit foundation to run the site, a private partner on the project has raised concerns that both the present and former administrations were yet to move ahead on the MNP.

Mohamed Hameed, Promoter of the non-profit Edu Faru MNP project, has said that despite receiving vocal support of both President Dr Mohamed Waheed and former President Mohamed Nasheed, both their administrations has so far failed to approve vital paperwork on the project.

Hameed, who conceived the MNP based around international models of marine reserves such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef or the Kosterhavet National Park in Sweden, said he had continued to struggle to obtain approval for the foundation charged with running the park.

“[The] government is a major stakeholder in the foundation that will run the Marine National Park (MNP) as a non-profit organisation… but it is yet to approve the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the foundation.  The foundation has not been registered,” he explained.

“Following the registration of the foundation, government is to hand over the entire site of the MNP, including its surrounding waters, to the foundation under an agreement.”

Hameed said that although the present and former governments had received all the required paperwork and files, he did not believe that any decision or progress would be made on approving the foundation to run the MNP before the presidential election scheduled for September this year.


By the end of the current year, the management of the MNP, which presently works on a voluntary basis, has targeted reaching an agreement with the state on the park’s boundaries. Under guidelines set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the park requires an area of land of at least 1,000 hectares.

With these boundaries in place, the MNP’s management has said it will then aim to secure grants from groups like the world bank as well as international donors, NGOs and the country’s tourism ministry to try and establish research centres and an underwater observatory for both the public and scientists to study at.

Aside from the opportunities for research, Hameed said that strictly regulated fishing and tourism expeditions would also be allowed in the area, although travel in the park would have to be conducted on non-motorised, traditional dhoni vessels.

Money raised through these ventures would be used to help run the park and provide research and training programmes.

Despite the restrictions on the use of the proposed MNP site, Hameed said both the public and Noonu Atoll Council had lent support to the project.

He added that while there was a local understanding of the need for national conservation through projects like the MNP, it remained important to educate and create awareness among the public, as well as the international community about the sensitive nature of the Maldives environment.

Hameed therefore said he welcomed the government’s wider commitments in trying to transform the Maldives into a national biosphere reserve.

Reserve reservations

Despite welcoming the idea of the project, Hameed has expressed some reservations about the state’s ability to plan and execute such an ambitious conservation strategy. He raised particular concerns about what he claims was the lack of a holistic legal framework outlining environmental protection in the nation.

A number of stakeholders working in the environmental sector last month expressed concern about a perceived lack of enforcement and legislative framework to protect biodiversity and conservation areas nationally.

Ali Rilwan, Executive Director for local NGO BluePeace, claimed at the time that a lack of national enforcement mechanisms continued to setback and limit the effectiveness of national parks and biosphere projects in the country.

He claimed that without such regulation, marine reserves and other conservation zones currently established in the country were operating more as “paper parks” than designated protected areas.

State conservation commitments

The Environment Ministry earlier in June announced the formation of an Environmental Police Unit that would see 22 trained officers with the aim of investigating and punish violations of laws relating to biodiversity and littering.

As well as establishing the Environmental Police Unit, the ministry has continued to call for expressions of interest from atolls wishing to be part of its national marine reserve transformation plan set for 2017.

Muhusina Abdul Rahman, an analyst for the Ministry of Environment and Energy, told Minivan News that authorities were seeking 10 atolls to be unveiled in 2017 as being part of its national marine reserve.

Within each of these ten atolls, the government has pledged to designate three different types of zones that would be exclusively separated into conservation, buffers areas and “transition” land free to be developed for industrial and other commercial purposes.

Rahman said that the ministry was now moving ahead with feasibility studies in the nominated atolls to see conduct a detailed assessment of communities best suited to being included in the reserve.

She claimed that the ministry hoped to identify the first two atolls that will make up the national biosphere reserve by year end, but said these areas would not be unveiled until all ten were officially announced in 2017.

Rahman mantained that the Edu Faru MNP would compliment the state’s biosphere reserve scheme along aside other high-profile conservation areas such as Baa Atoll, which was designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2011.

Bio-reserve challenges

One resort general manager based in Baa Atoll said earlier this year that the despite the area being classified as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, there had been no changes on its operations, despite claims from authorities about the significant marketing potential.

“There are a lot of conservation organisations here with opinions on how to manage the site, but it’s taking a long time to reach agreements. I have myself expressed concerns that it is taking too long to devise how the areas should be used,” the resort head said back in January.


No waste spill in Thilafushi lagoon: Male’ City Council

The Male’ City Council (MCC) has disputed “inaccurate” local media reports that a large waste spill occurred in the Thilafushi (‘garbage island’) lagoon last night.

Large amounts of garbage were reported to have accumulated in the Thilafushi lagoon due to “spillover” while a barge was off loading waste from the capital Male’, according to Sun Online.

However, MCC Councillor Mohamed Abdul Kareem, the council member responsible for waste management, told Minivan News today (June 29) that local media reports were “not accurate” and that no garbage spill occurred on Thilafushi last night.

“Due to the bad weather this past month the jetty was damaged – half of it was broken and it has been damaged for two weeks – however repairs were completed yesterday,” Kareem explained.

“Earlier this month because of the high winds, some waste was carried into the harbor, but not a big amount,” he added. “There was no spill, it’s not an issue.”

Kareem explained that trash tends to “line the [harbour] area” and moves from one side to the other in relation to the wind, current, and tides, however due to the harbor’s shape does not easily float out into the open sea.

“Thirty vessels dump trash there daily, so there might be something in the area, but it’s a dead end,” said Kareem.

“Items have been floating [in the harbor] over a month, but there was not a big spill or dump,” he noted.

Senior officials from the MCC were sent to inspect Thilafushi last month and confirmed operations were “very organised”, according to Kareem.

“Cleaning [waste that accumulates in the harbor] is ongoing,” said Kareem. “The area is well maintained by the Male’ City Council.”

Thilafushi rehabilitation stalled

Thilafushi management was transferred to the Male’ City Council (MCC) in 2010 as part of the Decentralisation Act. Accordingly, a contract was signed in 2011 with the Indian-based company Tatva Global Renewable Energy to rehabilitate the island, manage garbage generated in Male’, on nearby inhabited islands and resorts, as well as implement a system designed to generate power from recycling waste.

However, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s administration announced it was renegotiating the Tatva agreement in December 2012 to reach what Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela referred to at the time as a “mutually beneficial” agreement.

In response the Male’ City Council (MCC) accused authorities of trying to “sabotage” the deal.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environment and Social Safeguards Coordinator Ibrahim Mohamed told Minivan News earlier this year that plans to rehabilitate Thilafushi have been stalled due to procedural “hiccups”.

“The World Bank (WB) is not happy, because Thilafushi is not a managed site,” said Mohamed. “There were hiccups in environmental safeguards.”

In order to ensure waste management on Thilafushi adhered to proper environmental safety standards, the government has been seeking assistance to rehabilitate the island.

“During the public private partnership that was [previously] announced, Tatva was contracted to do a proper landfill and incinerator, etc. They were investing US$15 million, but then when the government changed [in February 2012] there were hiccups in all these public private partnership contracts, and they left,” recounted Mohamed.

He explained that Tatva was ultimately brought back to negotiate a new contract.

“First there was the idea of throwing them out, but then [Tatva was] brought [back] in and told to sell some shares to local companies, i.e. water and sewerage. [So] they finally agreed to form a consortium with local companies and invest,” Mohamed continued.

“Within next two years we will see a better, rehabilitated facility [at Thilafushi],” he added.

While Thilafushi waste management remains a contentious issue, other projects are being implemented in Raa and Ari Atollsfunded, respectively, by the World Bank and Climate Change Trust Fund (CCTF) – in an effort to develop alternative processing sites.


Maldives resorts, local communities participating in whale shark festival

This story was first published on the Maldives resort review site,

South Ari Atoll is hosting a whale shark festival aiming to bring together local resorts and communities with a view to expanding cooperation on conservation – as well as providing tourists with insight into one of the country’s most elusive creatures.

Based on the island of Dhigurah, the festival is focused not only on trying to better understand the movement and behaviours of whale sharks in their natural habitat, but also to give visitors a chance to better understand South Ari Atoll’s ecology and culture.

Organisers have expressed hope that the festival will establish itself as an annual event in the country, having already secured sponsorship from a number of resorts including LUX* Maldives, Mirihi Island, Vilamendhoo, Holiday Island and the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.

The event also represents a collaboration between local NGOs such as the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP), the South Ari Marine Protected Area, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Beyond the country’s traditional appeal as a destination for sun, sand and sea, sightings of creatures like the whale shark have increasingly proven a major draw for visitors in recent years.

In attempts to balance the potential environmental impacts of increased numbers of visitors wishing to experience the country’s delicate ecosystems, several island resort properties have announced collaborations with conservation groups and marine reserves across the country.

The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort told Dhonisaurus that beyond playing a role in today’s festival, the property over the last six years has been involved with efforts to promote better conservation and understanding of whale sharks in the country.

Resort spokesperson Katherine Anthony said the resort had been a main sponsor of the MWSRP NGO since 2007, as part of a strategy she said reflected the seriousness with which the property treated the conservation and study of the local environment.

Conrad has said that the nature of the resort’s sponsorship of the MWSRP is partly financial, but  also provided accommodation, fuel and food to the group’s researchers for nine months of the year.

Besides research, the MWSRP also allows guests at the property to participate in three weekly excursions to go out and see the creatures.

“They can talk about whale sharks in depth and give a much more detailed and focused excursion than you’d find elsewhere due to the MWSRP’s in depth knowledge of whale sharks,” she said.

“What we have found is that already one guest has joined the MWSRP as a research volunteer, so it’s definitely a program that’s of interest to our guests.”

Anthony added that resort guests accepting an invite to the festival would be given a unique and rarely seen insight into the local environment.

“It’s also an excellent opportunity to see life on an inhabited Maldivian island, eat Maldivian food, meet Maldivians and talk to them about their lives,” she said.

Biosphere ambitions

On a national level, the Maldives government is moving ahead with plans to transform the Maldives into what it claims will be the world’s largest  biosphere reserve by designating zones across the country that would earmark land use for specific purposes such as tourism development or conservation.

In approving the plan to transform the country into a “world renowned” marine reserve, members of the cabinet claim there has been a growing number of visitors to areas such as Baa Atoll after it became a protected area.

While some tourism industry figures have welcomed existing efforts to transformation areas such as Baa Atoll into bio-reserves, concerns have been raised about the efforts taken to manage such zones in balancing tourism interests with preserving local habitats.


Governance, socio-economic and political issues threaten Maldives’ reefs: study

Governance, socio-economic and political issues within the Maldives are reducing the ability of local, atoll and national management to address threats to coral reefs nationwide, according to a recently published study.

The extent of coral reef recovery following the 1998 and 2010 bleaching incidents was collaboratively studied by Reef Check, the Marine Conservation Society and Biosphere Expeditions, with the results recently published in the expedition report entitled “Little and Large: Surveying and Safeguarding Coral Reefs and Whale Sharks in the Maldives”.

“Given the severity of the initial catastrophic bleaching [in 1998], there has been a moderate to good recovery of corals in the central Maldives atolls… [however] most coral communities in the central reefs are still recovering from the massive bleaching event,” the study found.

Furthermore, human activities causing local environmental pollution and global climate change impacts are “suppressing recovery” from coral bleaching incidents for reefs nearer to “more heavily populated centres” as well as threatening sustainable “maintenance of the very corals on which the Maldives exist,” the report noted.

“[However] the potential for a full recovery of Maldives corals in many sites is good,” it continued.

The report identified numerous government and management shortcomings that exacerbate the threats impeding reef recovery in the Maldives, despite ongoing government efforts to establish Marine Protected Areas (MPA) as well as reduce carbon emissions nationally and internationally.

Governance problems must be addressed if the Maldives is to achieve UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status for the entire island nation, the study emphasised.

Governance shortcomings harm reef resilience

Political instability and the recent economic downturn in the Maldives have shifted immediate priorities away from marine conservation, according to the report.

“Unfortunately, the monitoring budget for the [Maldives] Marine Research Centre (MRC) appears to have been drastically cut in the recent past, with little information coming out of the MRC in terms of reef conditions,” noted the study.

There is also “inadequate investment in enforcing” environmental conservation laws, particularly in MPAs.

“Enforcement has been undervalued as a net contributor to the nation’s wealth, because economic returns from such an investment are not easily apparent or quickly attainable,” the study explained.

Inadequate reporting of rapid environmental degradation was a key concern highlighted in the study, because this destruction has “degraded the natural capital of the islands and the reefs that support local and tourist islands.”

Reefs have been “heavily modified” over the past 30 years – due to the lack of “concurrent precautionary management” – as “resource exploitation has expanded to meet the demands of an increased human / tourist population,” the report added.

Education and awareness regarding sustainable reef management is lacking, as balancing environmental resource extraction with protection is not included in the national curriculum, according to the report.

Meanwhile, business and tourism remain heavily dependent on a carbon-based economy due to the Maldives’ geographic remoteness, the study noted.

Given that the “Maldives’ islands are entirely, naturally made from the fine coral sand washed up onto the very shallowest coral platforms, with the highest point reaching approximately 2.4 meters above sea level” the study emphasised the importance of correcting these governance issues for reef protection.

Reef destruction threatens Maldives’ survival

Coral reefs play an unrivalled role in the Maldivian culture, lifestyle, and for fisheries relative to most other Indian Ocean states, in addition to supporting an expanding tourism and recreation industry, noted the study.

Human activities such as “tourism, reef fishing, coral mining, dredging, reclamation and the construction of maritime structures and pollution represent most impacts on coral reefs,” the study identified.

Overfishing of keystone species that are important for keeping reef predators in check, as well as inappropriate atoll development, sedimentation, and pollution were also identified as key threats.

Climate change induced impacts including sea surface temperature increases and seawater acidification from increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide are, respectively, leading to coral bleaching as well as decreased coral skeletal strength, growth rates, and reproductive outputs. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere need to be reduced to less than 350 parts per million, the report noted.

The mutually reinforcing combination of these threats will have “detrimental consequences” for the Maldives unless national and local government, tourism, and local island groups manage the local and global impacts threatening reefs, the report emphasised.

“Only with the development of capacity-building, training and resources committed to conservation at the local atoll and island level will mitigating measures be implemented,” stated the study.

Proactive island level sustainable environmental management is essential for coral reef health and recovery from previous “catastrophic, massive bleaching”, the report recommended.

This includes establishing and promoting sustainable fisheries that protect species from overfishing, including enforcing and expanding “no-take zones” for one in every three reefs, particularly around grouper spawning locations.

“Pollution must [also] be tackled” to prevent algal growth, which harms reef health.

The study concluded that “local islands, their political administrators and resorts should adhere and enforce these environmental standards, where possible, in order to stave off the most severe detrimental effects of climate-driven change to the health of the reefs.”


Male’ surfers dump garbage outside city hall in protest over night market trash

A group of local surfers dumped a pile of garbage outside the entrance to Male’ City Hall today in a second protest aimed at preventing the waste generated by a night market held this month from polluting the Maldives’ capital city.

The rubbish pile was dumped at the MCC today (June 19) in an effort to pressure city councilors to organise a formal meeting with the group, so they can collaboratively prevent refuse from the ongoing night market event from polluting the area, the group claimed.

The rubbish was collected from roads around the market, known as the ‘Ungulhey Bazaar’, as well as the small park area local surfers refer to as ‘the garden’ located next to the capital’s ‘raalhugandu’ surf point in Henveiru ward.

Appalled by the excessive amounts of garbage littering the nearby streets, parks and sea due to the Male’ night market, last week the group of surfers staged a creative protest using the rubbish to try and pressure the city council into action.

Although the first protest did prompt responses from the Male’ City Council (MCC) and Go Media – the private company commissioned to organise the market – no formal meetings have yet been conducted to resolve the issue, Maldives Surfing Association (MSA) President Ahmed Fauzan ‘Karo’ Abbas told Minivan News today.

“We have tried to meet someone [from MCC and Go Media] and they have sent different representatives [to raalhugandu] to discuss the night market litter problem, but no one with decision making authority,” said Abbas. “Random people come but we don’t know who they are.”

“We have also previously sent complaint letters but no one has responded,” he added.

“I was [previously] told things would get better, but it’s getting worse,” he said.

The surfers today claimed that their second protest appeared to have been more successful.

“MCC has arranged an official meeting for Sunday (June 23), which will be attended by MSA as well as the Maldives Bodyboarding Association (MBBA),” said Abbas.

He added that although tonight marked the last night of the market, another event had been scheduled for October this year.

“We have told the city council we do not want the bazaar to be held here again. What the public is doing [throwing waste all over the area] is affecting our sport,” said Abbas.

Abbas explained that the raalhugandu area had a long association with surfing, adding that the excessive garbage – as well as advertising billboards erected in the area without consulting the community – all negatively impacted surf competitions held in the area.

“This is a public space and the public should be consulted before holding a big event [like the night market],” he said.

The MCC confirmed today that a first formal meeting with the MSA and MBBA is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

“We scheduled the formal meeting to solve all the [garbage] problems and to discuss what difficulties they are facing due to the night market,” MCC Councillor Mohamed Falah told Minivan News today.

“I know that we have to solve the garbage problems very carefully,” said Falah. “I agree with their demands and that environmental problems are very important.”

“We will solve these waste issues at any cost,” he declared.

Raising awareness about the link between human and environmental health is necessary to stop people from haphazardly throwing their garbage everywhere, which is why the surfers are leading by example, local surfer Hamid Abdul Hadhi previously told Minivan News.

“Most of the pollution from the market ends up in the sea,” Hadhi explained. “The trash hurts the fishes and corals, plus when we’re surfing and get a plastic bag stuck to our faces then we’re in trouble.”


Political instability is key concern at Maldives renewable energy investment conference

Participants attending this week’s Maldives International Renewable Energy Investors Conference consider the event a “good beginning”, but claimed political instability was presently hampering foreign investors’ confidence in the sector.

The two day event, which concluded yesterday (June 17), aimed to facilitate long-term partnerships between international investors, project developers, energy companies and utilities groups in order to enable successful renewable energy projects throughout the Maldives.

The Ministry of Environment and Energy hosted conference at Bandos Island Resort and Spa in an effort to boost investor confidence and attract renewable energy financing.

Although Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela noted that the conference was successful, she also urged participants to “reflect on our mutual needs” and emphasised that investments will be “protected, facilitated, and supported by the government” during her concluding speech yesterday.

“Your need to promote your [renewable energy] products and our need to reduce energy costs – that of course is a huge issue as was mentioned here so many times – and also of course to combat climate change,” said Shakeela.

“We currently rely extensively on imported fossil fuels, as we have heard here over and over and over again these last few days. Yet paradoxically, many islands have ample but underutilized renewable energy resource potential,” she continued.

“The Ministry of Finance and Treasury is working to create an enabling environment for investments in general, which I believe is a concern of a lot of investors,” she added.

Meanwhile, Maldives-based representatives from the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) present at the conference pledged their continued support in an effort to attract renewable energy investors.

ADB Director Mr Yongping Zhai pledged to “go as far as it costs” to transform Maldives into a renewable energy dependent country, as opposed to oil dependent, according to the Environment Ministry.

However, he noted that although the Maldives has the commitment, market potential, resources, and willing investors for renewable energy, there is a “missing link to put these pieces together”.

“In theory things should work, but why things are not working so far is [the lack of] the right business model,” said Zhai. “That’s the purpose of this conference and of the ADB’s work.”

The WB considered the conference to be a “good initial first information gathering” event for facilitating renewable energy investments and emphasized that it was working very closely with the Maldives government to develop the energy sector and national financial institutions, said WB Senior Energy Specialist Abdulaziz Faghi.

In an effort to boost investor confidence, the Environment Ministry emphasised the WB would guarantee any investments made in the Maldives.

“One of the issues facing the private sector investing in any sector is the payment guarantee and their concern with the return on investment,” State Minister for Environment and Energy Abdul Matheen Mohamed told Minivan News yesterday.

He explained that the government of Maldives has allocated US$5 million from the International Development Association (IDA) financing though the World Bank, which will be leveraged up to US$ 25 million.

“So basically the World Bank will be issuing a guarantee for this amount to give guarantees to the investors investing [funds] under the scaling-up renewable energy program (SREP) investment plan,” said Matheen.

He noted that conference participants concerns have “been resolved though the guarantee facilities introduced by the World Bank”.

Foreign investors lacking

Following the conference yesterday, Renewable Energy Maldives Managing Director Dr Ibrahim Nashid told Minivan News that he believed banks and foreign investors crucial to revitalising the national energy “didn’t turn up” at the event.

“The main idea was to bring investors here, but I don’t think that has happened,” said Nashid.

He explained that while Maldives-based institutional representatives from the WB, ADB, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and various other Maldivian institutions attended the conference, individuals with authority to authorize lending and/or donor funds were not present.

“Basically there wasn’t any financial institution that could give the finance or lend the money,” said Nashid. “No international banks came and what is very noticeable there wasn’t Indian investors. Not a single Indian company was represented.”

“ADB was saying they have earmarked funds for the Maldives, but their idea was also to leverage that with some other lending institution and that was not there,” he added.

Nashid noted that none of the Maldivian banks were present at the conference.

“The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) was there, but not the Islamic Bank in Male’, even the Bank of Maldives didn’t attend,” said Nashid.

“It shows the confidence that everybody has, [which is] the reason the World Bank is talking about giving a bank guarantee,” he continued.

Although Minister Shakeela was asked many times about what the government would do to guarantee investments “she skirted the question saying the ADB and WB is giving the guarantee,” according to Nashid.

“That was not the issue, the issue is what happens to our investments,” he said. “The GMR case is very very open and obvious to everyone. The issue of political instability was very much skirted, [but] everybody knew.”

Nashid claimed that most conference participants who discussed renewable energy investments said a decision would not happen until after the presidential election scheduled for September.

“We need political stability here, without political stability I don’t think any project is going to take off,” said Nashid.

“We can do the preparation of paperwork, etc. but money will not be put on the table. That’s the message we get from abroad,” he added.

These sentiments were echoed by conference participants representing various private sector businesses.

“It was a good start, but this is really just a beginning. There were not very many investors present,” an infrastructure company representative told Minivan News on condition of anonymity.

“The three things investors are looking for are credibility, stability, and return on the investment,” a telecommunications company representative told Minivan News on condition of anonymity.

The source explained that political instability was the main concern preventing investors from committing to renewable energy development. He also agreed with another conference participant’s observation that political instability in the Maldives was the ‘elephant in the room’ at the event.

“There were very few investors present, which is not surprising. No one is going to be eager to invest [in developing renewable energy] until after elections,” he added.


‘Surfers against sewage’ shame city council over night market littering

Appalled by excessive amounts of garbage littering streets, nearby parks, and sea due to the Male’ night market, local surfers have staged a creative protest using the rubbish to pressure the city council into action.

The night market is held annually before Ramazan to provide people a plethora of affordable goods. Locally referred to as the ‘Ungulhey Bazaar’ – literally meaning the ‘rub up against someone market’ – the 10 day event draws dense crowds, and this year has a record-breaking 765 stalls representing 450 groups, according to local media.

Thousands of people shopping and eating amidst the hundreds of densely packed stalls generates enormous amounts of waste, which is pitched onto the streets or into the adjacent sea since there are no trash cans.

For the past three years the market has been located near ‘raalhugandu’, Male’s surf point, adjacent to the Tsunami Monument in Henviru ward.

Fed up with the pollution the “surfers against sewage” decided to take action.

“There are no dustbins so the rubbish ends up in the ocean and we don’t want that,” local surfer and Maldives Surfing Association (MSA) Spokesperson Ibrahim Riffath told Minivan News yesterday (June 11).

“It’s very bad, like a real slum,” said Riffath. “The Maldives is one of the most beautiful countries, but the sh*ttiest place.”

The wind carries the waste into the water and spreads it through the streets, so the bad storm that wreaked havoc on Male’ and the night market earlier this week exacerbated the problem, Riffath explained.

The surfers were in good spirits walking through the empty market stalls to collect trash – which was strewn over the ground – to reuse for their protest.

An impromptu improvisation about the waste management problem, sung by local surfer Ibrahim Aman to the tune of Pink Floyd’s the Wall, with accompanying lyrics “we don’t need no trash around us”, made the rubbish hunt a lively affair.

As did Aman’s poetry about inserting trash into a bin: “My name is dustbin and I’m always empty. My girlfriend’s name is garbage…”

The random rubbish pieces were arranged along the sea wall, hung from trees in the small park near ‘raalhugandu’, and piled next to protest boards in an artistic fashion.

Witty signs, banners, and graffiti expressed their frustration with the waste management problem: “Is this a pretty picture? Is this heaven on earth? Is this the garbage area? For an independent Dhivehi Raajje (Maldives) we need a clean Dhivehi Raajje.”

The lone trash can located near the park at the night market’s entrance was adorned with graffiti saying “What is this?”, while other ironic messages saying “thank you city council”, “welcome to paradise”, “sunny side” and “carbon neutral 2013”.

While most of the “surfers against sewage” are MSA members, their protest was not conducted as an official MSA initiative, but was rather spontaneous collective effort.

“MSA’s president wrote to the city council this year, but we have not yet received a reply,” said Riffath.

“The city council is saying they will have dustbins, but they have not yet done it and no one is coming to collect the trash,” he continued.

“They told us that this place, [the raalhugandu park], is not the road so it’s not part of their mandate to clean,” claimed Riffath.

“We are doing this for ourselves, the public and the environment,” he added. “People aren’t educated about why littering is so harmful.”

Be green and clean

“It’s not nice or hygienic,” local surfer Hamd Abdul Hadhi told Minivan News yesterday.

“Each stall should be responsible for keeping their area clean, daily,” he suggested. “If we were rich we would have bought the dustbins ourselves.”

“Most of the pollution from the market ends up in the sea,” he explained. “The trash hurts the fishes and corals, plus when we’re surfing and get a plastic bag stuck to our faces then we’re in trouble.”

Raising awareness about the link between human and environmental health is necessary to stop people from haphazardly throwing their garbage everywhere, which is why the surfers are leading by example, Hadhi noted.

“People are damaging mother nature so much with rubbish,” he said. “As surfers, we understand more than others and want to show people that it is good to be clean.”

“We clean the park and surrounding area two or three times a week, but no one else bothers,” Hadhi lamented. “And every night market we put up notices saying ‘do not litter here’.”

“It’s not just for our benefit, waste management is important for the whole country,” he said. “We are one of the smallest countries, so it’s crazy we can’t manage waste properly.”

“No one listens to us, so this [protest] is all we can do,” he declared.

Male’ City Council

“Of course this is a problem at the night market,” Male’ City Council (MCC) Mayor Ali ‘Maizan’ Manik told Minivan News today (June 12).

“I move around every day early morning and my goodness I know how bad it is,” said Manik.

“My secretary general will be arranging a meeting for this afternoon with the [protest] organisers and we will discuss waste management how we can reach a solution and solve this issue,” he added.

Manik explained that the Environment Ministry has been handling the waste management problem, but has not kept the MCC informed of what they are doing.

“Given the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) investigation into the [Tatva] contract we were asked to stop [waste management activities] until the inquiry was completed,” said Manik.

“I spoke with the Environment Minister and they are already approved to sign the [new] Tatva agreement, but before the council signs we have to know the changes they have made to the contract,” he noted.

“The Tatva discussion was already held and the original agreement was signed in November 2010,” he continued.

“Changes were already made to the agreement by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank, so there shouldn’t be [additional] changes, but the Environment has Ministry altered the contract,” Manik said.

“This is the kind of government we have, doing this to disturb us,” he added. “The waste management agreement should be made to benefit the public.”