In a letter addressed to the minister of environment and energy, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said that said unsafe dredging in Meedhoo, Dhaalu atoll, will have great health risks for the local population.
The Meedhoo land reclamation project was halted by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to take measures to minimise the environmental impact of the work as per regulations.
The HPA launched an investigation to identify the health impact of the project after having received complaints.
HPA’s letter – a copy of which was obtained by Minivan News today – noted that there is a high chance that the continuation of the project as it is would have a negative health impact in the long run.
According to the letter, the agency’s investigations indicated that it is highly likely to cause lung and respiratory diseases.
“Therefore we request to find another way of carrying out the work, and to encourage working in a way that would not have any negative impact on human beings,” read the letter.
Using the rainbowing technique – the propulsion of materials through the air in a high arc – rather than using pipelines to take the the sand closer to the land, has left a large part of the island’s shoreline vegetation and many houses near the beach covered in fine sand and sea water.
Environmental NGO Ecocare earlier said that the project’s environmental implications are “frightening” and both public and private property are at risk.
“While layers of sedimentation found on some rooftops were 2-3 inches thick, large trees on the shoreline and inland had also effected loosing its leaves, and are now drying and dying,” the organisation said in a statement issued yesterday.
Meedhoo Council President Ahmed Aslam confirmed that rainbowing has affected destroyed the vegetation on the island and caused some damage to property as well.
“It is true, rainbowing has caused some damages to the island. Soil and seawater was sprayed all over the place. And as this is a small island, it was all over the houses near the beach and had damaged the vegetation all over the island,” Aslam explained.
He said that when the council took the issue to the Housing Ministry, they requested they communicate with Boskalis International – the company contracted to carry out the work – to ensure mitigation measures are taken properly.
Aslam however denied media reports that the dredging vessel had left the island due to the environmental issues.
“We communicated directly with Boskalis people. They confirmed that the vessel was leaving the island to repair a pump. They are bringing in mechanic from abroad. We expect the work to resume within four days,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Housing Dr Mohamed Muiz told Haveeru that the EPA had acted without discussing the issue with the ministry and that there were political reasons in the EPA’s suspension of the operation.
“The issue of EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment] came up while some political people were trying to stop the work, because we are speeding up a work which they were unable to do during MDP’s three years in government,“ Muiz was quoted as saying in Haveeru.
While the EPA is a legal regulatory authority, the agency it not independent and functions under the Ministry of Environment and Energy.
Muiz confirmed to Haveeru that the work was halted due to violation of EIA conditions and said Boskalis International had now been asked to suspend operations and to continue work after resolving the issues.