Dhigufarufinolhu, a sandbank in Baa Atoll, has been “destroyed” to construct a harbour for the Royal Island Resort, claims Mohamed Zuhair, Press Secretary of the President’s Office.
The resort is owned by Republican Party Leader and Maamigili MP Gasim Ibrahim.
While the harbour was being constructed for docking speedboats, Zuhair said the sandbank and the resort were not in the same landmass.
“The sandbank has a massive lagoon. In between the resort and sandbank there is deep blue sea,” he said.
Zuhair said that the destruction of the sandbank would have dire consequences for the ecosystem as its lagoon was home to a plethora of marine life.
“All the plankton, fish, bait, sea turtles who come ashore to lay eggs, corals in the area and many seabirds fled after the sandbank was destroyed,” he explained.
Zuhair added that the government has received a numerous complaints about the environmental impact of the construction.
“All the bait the [fishermen] caught there is gone, all the seabirds, which they used to locate fish, are gone after the harbor was constructed,” Zuhair said.
He further claimed that all living coral in the areas was now dying because of the spread of silt produced during the construction.
However, he added, the government could only take any action when the case was reported officially.
”The former government awarded that sandbank in the 1970s,” he said.
According to Google Earth, the distance between the sandbank and the resort is approximately 1,065 feet.
The lagoon of the sandbank was approximately 2.9 kilometers in length and 1.3 kilometers in width.
Ibrahim Naeem, director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said sandbanks were an essential part of the ecosystem.
”Birds and turtles go there, fish in the area die if there are no rocks,” Naeem said. “The plankton and corals in the area will also die if a sandbank is destroyed.”
Naeem stressed that silt was a very dangerous substance.
”If it gets inside the respiratory system of a fish, they will have difficulty breathing,” he said. ”If it reaches the eye they will suffer from poor eyesight.”
He added that “whether Gasim or Hassan” was responsible was immaterial as the environmental impact would be the same.
Moreover, he said, construction of harbours was generally very harmful to the environment.
Gasim said he was out of the country and could not comment on the matter.