Piles of garbage left on Malé streets

Piles of garbage have been left to rot on the streets of Malé days after a housing ministry organized waste disposal program ended.

The housing ministry on June 14 announced it will pick up trash from households between 4pm and 10pm on June 15. The program was announced ahead of the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Officials said households must register to get trash cleared out.

Five days later, several houses are continuing to leave trash on Malé’s narrow and congested streets.

Housing minister Dr Mohamed Muizz has accused the opposition of deliberately thrashing the streets of Malé. On June 18, the first day of Ramadan, Muizz said the waste disposal program was over and said that the opposition has been “throwing out garbage in different areas” of the city to hinder government efforts to “keep Malé clean.”

On the same day, the housing ministry released a statement saying it had cleared trash from some 430 registered households on June 15.

“We regret to inform that the ministry will not be throwing out any of the trash being thrown out on the streets from now on.”

However, the ministry on Friday said some 50 staff had helped clear 68 truckloads of “illegal garbage.”

Malé City’s deputy mayor Shifa Mohamed said the housing ministry’s waste disposal program was poorly planned.

“First they say they will throw out the trash a day before they start the program. Two days later, they say not anymore. That is not how people’s behavior works.”

Not everyone is up-to-date on the ministry’s latest announcements, she said. “Some people took out trash they have been keeping inside their homes for more than 8 years.”

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has meanwhile announced that it will fine the households that have left garbage on the streets after June 15.

“Throwing out trash in this manner, is illegal under the waste management regulations enforced by the EPA,” read the statement.

Article 11 of the waste management regulation prohibit waste disposal on streets and parks.

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The MNDF concerned at pictures of captured baby crocodile

Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) has expressed concern after pictures began circulating on social media depicting a man holding a 3 foot crocodile in his hands.

Haveeru reported that the small crocodile seen in the picture is now kept in a little pond at a house belonging to one of the individuals pictured, who are believed to have found the crocodile on an uninhabited island on Malé Atoll.

“We are going to investigate this case. We urge citizens to inform relevant authorities first if you see any such animals,” Haveeru reported MNDF spokesperson Major Adnan of saying.

With increased crocodile sightings in different regions of the Maldives after a 10 foot specimen was caught in Kalaidhoo Island, the MNDF has previously urged the public to refrain from trying to catch the animals without proper assistance.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said yesterday that the Maldives’ climate and geography does not make it the best habitat for crocodiles.

“The crocodiles being sighted these days are most likely to have drifted with the currents from nearby countries,” said EPA Director General Ibrahim Naeem. “If crocodiles were to populate this country, it would have happened thousands of years ago.”

Source: Haveeru

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Maldives not the best habitat for crocodiles, says EPA

The Maldives’ climate and geography does not make it the best habitat for crocodiles, says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) following an increase in sightings.

Director General Ibrahim Naeem told Minivan News today that it is very unlikely crocodiles will be able to reproduce and populate the country.

“The crocodiles being sighted these days are most likely to have drifted with the currents from nearby countries,” said Naeem.

“If crocodiles were to populate this country, it would have happened thousands of years ago.”

Multiple crocodile sightings have been reported to the authorities in recent days after a 10ft creature was caught last month in Laamu Atoll Kalaidhoo.

The reptiles – which can grow up to 22 feet in length – are usually found  in mangrove swamps, rivers, estuaries, deltas, and lagoons. Saltwater crocodiles are known to live in the east coast of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal.

Naeem speculated that all the reported sightings may have been a lone crocodile. He also denied quotes attributed to him in some media outlets suggesting that the Maldives hosts a habitable environment for crocodiles.

“Media should refrain from spreading false information which might incite fear in the hearts of the people living in the islands,” said Naeem.

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Nolhivaram Council Abdulla Shareef told Minivan News that something which is believed to be a dead crocodile carcass has washed up on the island’s shore today.

“We have found a severely decomposed remains of what is believed to be a big 10ft crocodile today,” said Shareef. “We have informed Maldives National Defense Force which is going to examine the carcass before burying it.”

Shareef also said that a crocodile fitting the same description was reported in the nearby Nolhivaramfaru Island two days ago.

Media reported two more crocodile sightings last night alone, with Vaguthu saying that two fishermen made a sighting in Haa Alif – the country’s northernmost atoll, while another was said to have been reported in Addu City – the country’s southernmost.

Yesterday, the MNDF urged the public to refrain from trying to catch crocodiles without assistance from relevant authorities as sightings around the country continue to rise.

“It is important to call the authorities as soon as you see the crocodile. Sometimes, MNDF have been contacted after the crocodile flees an unsuccessful attempt to capture it. It is then very hard to track and find the animal,” said a spokesman.

While crocodiles are not native to the Maldives, it is believed that the increased sightings coincide with the beginning of the Iruvai (North Eastern) monsoon.

The most famous of the Kinboos is housed in Malé’s children’s park, where it has grown to over 10ft in length since its capture in 2008.



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EPA investigates pictures of alleged dolphin hunting

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched an investigation into images circulating on social media depicting five Maldivians posing for a picture while holding a dolphin.

EPA Director General Ibrahim Naeem said that the agency has found out the names of the individuals in the pictures, which he believes was taken in Faafu Atoll.

“This is a despicable event,” said Naeem. “We should not be touching these animals and should be trying to limit our interactions with them in order to preserve nature.”

He said he did not know whether the dolphin in the picture was released back in to the wild or was dead when the picture was taken.

The images have surfaced in the same week that the EPA launched a separate investigation into pictures showing the staff of a Maldivian safari boat and foreign tourists capturing endangered shark species.

Furamaana Travels – which operate the safari shown in the pictures – has told Minivan News that several protected species including sharks and sting rays were caught before being released back into the ocean after removing the lines and hooks.

However, the pictures prompted outrage as they appeared to show tourists and staff members posing for the camera while holding several of the animals.

Additionally, a 10 minute video showed how one shark was kept in one of the boat holds until it was deemed weak enough for the people to hold it for a picture.

“How would they know what they caught before they fish it out of the water?” asked a Furamaana staff member.

“As soon as it was discovered that endangered species were caught, the safari crew removed the hooks and line. They were released into the sea, unharmed.”

The EPA’s Naeem said today that it is necessary to take out the hook from a fish if it is accidentally caught on the line, in order to prevent infections and irreversible damage.

“However, we should be very careful as to how we do it,” he added.

Executive director at the environmental NGO Bluepeace Rilwan Ali commended the work being done by the EPA to protect the environment, and to bring perpetrators to justice.

“The EPA is proactively trying to take action regarding such issues,” said Rilwan. “Capturing such animals are illegal and adequate measures should be taken against them.”

Last month, local NGOs condemned images showing a turtle being cut in half for its eggs and meat, prompting the fisheries ministry to commence work on introducing stricter fines of up to MVR10 million (US$650,000) for illegal capture of turtles and tortoises.



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Safari operators in online picture controversy deny shark fishing

The operators of a Safari boat whose staff and visitors were pictured with endangered shark species have assured that they pay special attention to environmental conservation, denying that the images showed shark fishing.

Furamaana Travels – which operates the Bolero Safari boat – told Minivan News that several endangered and protected species including sharks and sting rays were caught before being released back into the ocean after removing the lines and hooks.

“How would they know what they caught before they fish it out of the water? As soon as it was discovered that endangered species were caught, the safari crew removed the hooks and line. They were released into the sea, unharmed”, said a Furamaana staff member.

Photos of a night-fishing trip on the boat have prompted outrage, as they appeared to show tourists and staff members holding several species of live shark – which are protected under Article 4 (a) of the Environment Protection Act.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Director General Ibrahim Naeem told Minivan News that it is currently contacting the relevant parties, including Furamaana Travels, to clarify information about the matter.

“We will only be able to take any steps after all facts surrounding the matter has been clarified. We will take action depending on the severity of the offence”, Naeem stated.

Ali Rilwan, Executive Director of local environmental NGO Bluepeace stated that the NGO does not feel the incident to be an issue “from a conservation point of view” as the caught animals were released back into the ocean.

“Safaris in Maldives operate in a very ethically correct manner, once caught they cannot just cut the line and release it, they have to remove the line and hook before doing so. Taking a photo before the release is not an issue, I do not see this in a negative light”, said Rilwan.

Local NGOs last month condemned images showing a turtle being cut in half for its eggs and meat, prompting the fisheries ministry to commence work on introducing stricter fines – up to MVR10 million (US$650,000) for illegal capture of turtles and tortoises.

Meanwhile, a ceremony was held today at EPA Agency to award the fishermen of Madduvari in Meemu Atoll for rescuing a stranded whale-shark from a shallow lagoon near Maduvvari Island.



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Kalaidhoo islanders catch 10ft crocodile

Laamu Atoll Kalaidhoo islanders have caught a crocodile measuring 10ft in length this morning.

According to CNM, the islanders reported seeing the crocodile in shallow waters around the island, with efforts to track the animal failing yesterday despite the efforts of police.

Kalaidhoo Council President Moosa Hassan told CNM that islanders were concerned about their safety because of the crocodile and therefore decided to catch it. It was caught using ropes from the jetty area.

The council has decided to hand over the animal to Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) as the council’s budget cannot support feeding it, Haveeru reported.

MNDF Spokesman Hussein Ali confirmed to Minivan News that the crocodile is being handed over to MNDF. He was unable to provide any further details.

While not native to the Maldives, the discovery of crocodiles in the islands is not uncommon. The most famous of the ‘Kinboo’s’ is housed in the Malé’s children’s park, where it has grown to over 10ft in length since its capture in 2008.

However, the crocodile’s cramped living space has prompted repeated accusations of animal cruelty against the MNDF.

Source: CNM, Haveeru

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MVR22 million fine issued for ship stranded on Thilafushi reef

A cargo ship which ran aground on the reef near Thilafushi earlier this month has been fined MVR22 million (US$1.4 million), the Transport Authority has told local media.

The MV Mutha Pioneer - registered in Dominica – became lodged on the reef to the north west of the industrial island on December 10, with an analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency revealing it had caused damage to 588 square meters of reef.

After spending around ten hours stranded on the reef, the Maldives National Defence Force was able to free the 1,900 tonne cargo vessel.

At the start of the year (January 7) a 27,000-tonne vessel called Auguste Schulte became stranded in shallow water while attempting to make a turn near the coast of the Raalhugandu area in Malé.

After assessing the damage caused by this incident, the government claimed damages of MVR 62.7 million (US$4 million).

Source: Haveeru

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Environmental NGOs call for action as images of turtle slaughter surface

Warning: This article contains graphic images.

Local environmental NGOs Ecocare and Bluepeace have condemned images circulating on social media showing a turtle being cut in half for its eggs and meat.

Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and police are now investigating the pictures.

Ecocare has demanded “immediate action from relevant authorities to stop such atrocities against protected marine species in the country”, in a statement which also said the NGO was “outraged by the lack of adequate enforcement measures in place”.

The pictures which were shared on Facebook show a group of people cutting open an adult sea turtle and extracting its eggs and meat. Local media outlet Sun Online has reported that the pictures were taken on the island of Maalhos in Alif Alif Atoll.

Maalhos Island Council has expressed concern over the incident but has said it was not aware that the pictures originated from the island.

Sun reported council Vice President Ahmed Sameeh as saying that it was common for islanders to hunt turtles and that the council has repeatedly requested citizens to stop.

Bluepeace Executive Director Rilwan Ali told Minivan News that the main obstruction to preventing such instances was poor institutional coordination between the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture and the EPA.

“The biggest problem is that turtle conservation comes under the fisheries law which is implemented by the fisheries ministry. The ministry has to share its resources with the EPA so that these kinds of events can be prevented,” said Rilwan.

Speaking on behalf the EPA, Director General Ibrahim Naeem said that these kinds of events could have a negative impact on the tourism of the country as well as long term effects on the economy, while highlighting the need for stricter punishments for such environmental crimes.

According to the fisheries regulations, the “catching, fishing, collecting or killing” of sea turtles is illegal throughout the country. The collection of sea turtles and eggs is also illegal, but only in 14 of the country’s 1,192 islands.

The current moratorium is set to last until 2016 thoug reports of turtle slaughter persist. Earlier this year, one source estimated that up to 180 turtles were killed from a single island in Shaviyani Atoll in 2013.

“There is a well-known nesting island and every night a group is going and hunting the turtles. It is so obvious, every day since January one or two are killed,” said the informed source. “They wait for them to nest on the island, or go snorkeling to hunt them.”

While speaking to Minivan News in April this year, Sam Hope – Marine Discovery Centre Manager at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa – said that the biggest threat to turtles is egg collection and trade.

Meanwhile, turtle conservation expert Dr Agnese Mancini has reported a decline in the population of  the majority of turtle species found in the Maldives.



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MRDC fined for constructing roads without conducting EIAs

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has fined the Maldives Road Development Corporation (MRDC) by an amount of MVR739,500 for constructing roads in Addu without conducting the prerequisite Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).

The EPA said that it has ordered the MRDC to pay the fine within a period of 30 days.

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