Hanifaru clean-up completed in Baa Atoll biosphere reserve

A clean up project took place yesterday (May 10) in the Maldvies Baa Atoll – the Maldives’ first certified UNESCO biosphere reserve.

The clean up of Hanifaru Island and Hanifu reef maintenance was carried out by a large group of volunteers from within the reserve – including local councillors, police officers, and resort workers.

Baa Atoll was officially launched as a Biosphere Reserve in June 2012 by former President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

Obtaining the status of UNESCO biosphere resulted in significnant funding for the atoll, with the UNDP handing over a cheque for US$250,000 as a contribution to the fund at the opening ceremony.

Tourist resorts in Baa Atoll, including Soneva Fushi, Coco Palm, Four Seasons, and Anantara and several other resorts have also pledged donations.

The Baa Atoll Conservation Fund will be used to finance projects to conserve the environment in the atoll as well to support livelihood activities.

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) coordinates a world network of over 500 biospheres, which are designated as areas of conservation and innovative sustainable development.

In a recent statement from the Biosphere Reserve Office, the organisers extended their gratitude to everyone who helped with the clean up, assuring that together they can achieve the common goal of managing the reserve.

Participants in the cleanup of Hanifaru included those from the atoll council, Eydhafushi Island Council, Baa Atoll Education Centre, the Maldives Police Services, and Baa Atoll Hospital. The Hanifaru reef cleanup and maintenance was undertaken by Four Seasons, Seamarc, Reathbeach Resort, Dusit Thani, Seasplash, and Kihaad Maldives.

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Baa Atoll to host Bodu Beru tournament

Baa Atoll and Four Seasons will host a Bodu Beru tournament in honor of Baa Atoll’s recent designation as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

The ‘Baa Youth Bodu Beru Challenge’ will take place on 17 and 18 November 2011 on Kamadhoo. The competition is open to Bodu Beru groups with 16 to 26 members aged 15 to 25 from the 13 islands of Baa Atoll.

Four Seasons has teamed up with Male-based cultural arts institution Varutha for the event. The institution was founded in 2007, when the ‘Meenaz’ bodu beru group noticed the need for a formal, organised means of sustaining Maldivian arts culture.

Varutha dancers will lead a 10-day workshop from September 23 to October 3. Two drummers from each competing group will have the opportunity to hone their skills and explore new bodu beru beats and methods.

Bodu beru is said to have made its first appearance in the Maldives in the 11th century AD, allegedly by sailors in the Indian Ocean. Bodu beru groups typically consist of 15 performers, including three drummers and a lead singer. Using a small bell, a set of drums known as the ‘bodu beru’, and an onugandu – a small piece of bamboo with horizontal grooves, which is scraped – performers create a lively rhythm for dancing.

Varutha’s co-founder, Sham’aa Abdullah Hameed [Anna], expressed appreciation and support for the youth arts event.

“The tournament reflects our shared mission to reconnect local youth with their rich cultural heritage by restoring, developing and incorporating tradition into the rapidly evolving Maldivian music scene. We’re looking forward to a successful workshop and an exciting two days of competition.”

Landaa Giraavaru’s General Manager and Regional Vice President, Armando Kraenzlin, said UNESCO’s recognition of the environmental value of Baa Atoll inspired the competition.

“UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves rely on optimum social, economic, and cultural conditions for environmental sustainability. We’re delighted to be working with Varutha to help strengthen the respect for cultural values amongst the Baa Atoll youth, while giving them an opportunity to contribute to their home island’s own sustainability.”

The winning team will receive Rf 100,000 (US$6485) towards a community project, and Rf 10,000 (US$650) for themselves. The team will also be invited to an awards ceremony on Landaa Giraavaru island on 28 December.

Team Application Forms and full Tournament Rules and Regulations can be downloaded at www.facebook.com/baa.boduberuchallenge.

All applications must be submitted via email by 30 September 2011 to [email protected]

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Government signs MoU for first national marine park sponsored by private individual

The Ministry of Housing and the Environment has signed a memorandum of understanding with a private individual, Mohamed Hameed, to create the Maldives’ first comprehensive national marine park.

The park, which Hameed says was conceived in the 1980s, is designed to protect nine islets in South Miladhunmadulu Atoll Edhudhfarru.

Hameed proposed his plan to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s administration in 2007, but says the current administration has been more supportive and would be overseeing the project.

The government has asked that the plan involve minimal intrusion to the natural environment. “I would expect the government to have a majority share in the program,” said Hameed, explaining that a foundation would be established for the park project.

Hameed said he has been advised by scientists from all over the world, and describes the Edhudhfarru area as “fragile and sensitive, with more water than land, and many unique flora and fauna.”

Hameed said the Marine National Park will provide day trips only, and visitors will pay a fee. An underwater observatory is also expected to draw researchers and tourists alike.

Bluepeace, a local environmental NGO, voted last night to support the project.

“We are very supportive of the concept,” said the NGO’s founder, Ali Rilwan. “I think it is very important that private sector individuals get involved in conservation.”

Rilwan said the Edhudhfarru area is very rich in biodiversity, adding that Bluepeace “expects [the foundation] to be much better than most places because of Hameed’s vast knowledge and interest in the place.”

Rilwan noted that this was the first time a private individual had proposed a conservation project to the government, and that the marine park would be the first national park to host a research center. The land itself will be given to the project’s foundation, which has yet to be established.

Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa said the park was intended “not just for preserving species for people to see, like in a zoo. There will be activities going on with the research.”

International groups had been inquiring about such a park for years, she noted.

“The park should have been established a long time ago, because tourism in the Maldives is based on sustainable development,” she said.

Director of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Mohamed Naeem said the organisation had not been officially informed of the project, although he understood it had been given to a private company, and said it was “too early to know what to expect from Mr  Hameed.”

Hameed has meanwhile said he hopes locals will become involved in the project. “A national park can only be preserved with the collaboration of the community, and the community should not feel they are deprived of use of the area in any way,” he said.

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