The state owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) will not be penalised for a severe sand spill on the reef of Komandoo Island in Shaviyani Atoll, Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim told parliament today.
The sand spill – which has destroyed large swathes of the island’s reef – was caused by a storm surge, Thoriq said.
The MTCC – in charge of a coastal protection and land reclamation project on the island – had implemented the required measures to prevent sand spills, but bad weather and swells caused the erosion of reclaimed areas and washed piled up sand onto the reef, Thoriq said.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Komandoo MP Ahmed Nashid blamed the MTCC’s slow progress for the sand spill, claiming the sand piles had been left on the island’s shores since 2012.
If the project had been completed on time, the spill would not have taken place, he suggested.
Minister Thoriq told the Majlis this morning that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) had acknowledged sand had spilled onto the reef.
“However, the island council’s members said the spill was not reported in case it may halt the project,” said Thoriq.
MP Nashid had summoned the minister for questioning, asking if the ministry had done a survey of damages and if the MTCC would be penalised for the spill.
Thoriq said the environment ministry had not been informed of the spill prior to Nashid raising the issue, but had monitored the area afterwards. An EPA team had visited the site and found the MTCC had followed all environmental procedures outlined in the environmental impact assessment report, he explained.
According to Thoriq – who said the exact date of the spill was unknown – explained that the sand had now washed off into the ocean with currents and the reef was showing signs of regeneration.
If any party reports environmental violations, the EPA will inspect site and take required action, he added.
The ministry does not have the capacity to monitor all ongoing projects, and will only begin an inspection if a violation is reported. But the ministry does take punitive action against companies who violate EIAs, he insisted.
The government intends to carry out projects to address erosion in seven islands this year, the minister told MPs, with approximately 97 percent of inhabited islands in the Maldives reporting severe erosion.
The government will spend MVR116.3 million (US$ 7.5 million) on protecting 3,482 meters of shore in the seven islands, he said.
In May, environmental NGO EcoCare accused Netherlands based Boskalis of committing environmental crimes after it caused sand to be deposited onto Baa Atoll Eydhafushi Island during a reclamation project.
The company’s rainbow technique for reclamation had also covered houses and vegetation on Eydhafushi and Raa Meedhoo Island with sand and water.
Minivan News was unable to reach the EPA to confirm if action had been taken against Boskalis for damages.