Taking out the trash

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An assessment dive ahead of a full day clean-up of the West Park land and reef area reveal years of accumulated trash dumped on the reef. Divers found bottles, bicycles, tires and even electronic devices at depths of about 10 meters.

Join the “Fari Faru 2015” full day clean up on Saturday, April 25 and help preserve the fragile reef around Malé.

Find more information about the event at Fari Faru 2015 Facebook page. 

Underwater photos by Nine Star Diving.


Divers plan underwater protest for Nasheed release

One hundred divers will wave flags underwater in protest against the jailing of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed on Saturday.

The dive, entitled “Free Climate Hero”, will take place near the West Park Cafe area of the capital on Saturday from 4pm to 6pm.

“You will see flags coming out of the water,” said said Hussein Latheef, a lead organiser of the event, according to Haveeru.

The dive protest is the latest in a series of events aiming to lobby for Nasheed’s release since he was jailed for 13 years on terrorism charges last month.

During his presidency, from 2008 to 2012, Nasheed was an active climate campaigner, highlighting the plight of the Maldives as a small island state vulnerable to rising sea levels.

In 2009 his cabinet made headlines by holding an underwater cabinet meeting calling for global cuts in carbon emissions.


Female resort worker dies after being hit by dive boat propeller

A 27 year-old female resort worker died yesterday after she was hit by the propeller of a diving boat near the island of Hinmafushi.

Police said Aishath Safa, who worked as a telephone operator at the Four Seasons Kudu Huraa resort 20 minutes from Male’, was hit by the propeller while on a diving excursion after the boat pulled over to pick up another person in the water.

Four Seasons Kuda Huraa issued a statement confirming the incident, and noting that the police investigation was ongoing.

“The Senior Management of the resort extends it deepest sympathies and has offered its fullest support and assistance to the family of Ms Aishath Safa,” the statement read.

The resort stated that Safa was a certified Open Water diver and had joined the afternoon dive session on her day off from work.

During a rally last night former President Mohamed Nasheed expressed sorrow over Safa’s death and praised her contribution to campaigning for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“Safa was a young woman who worked in numerous ways for the MDP and reform in the Maldives. May God grant her Paradise and give patience to her family,” Nasheed tweeted.

The incident is the fourth serious accident involving a boat propeller this year, and the second fatality.

On June 1, a German woman on honeymoon at Reethi Beach Resort suffered serious leg injuries after she was hit by the propeller of a dive boat.

A 51 year-old Italian woman died on January 31 while snorkeling near Elaa Island in Thaa Atoll, suffering major head injuries after she was hit by a boat propeller.

An 18 year-old Maldivian man was also seriously injured trying to disentangle a fishing line from a dhoni propeller on April 23.

Nauf Ibrahim was hit in the head by the propeller and suffered serious injuries including a skull fracture and internal bleeding. He was taken to Laamu Atoll regional hospital and later transfer to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) helicopter.


Coconuts and sea cucumbers main course for Maldives agriculture

President Mohamed Nasheed recognised World Food Day this week by inaugurating the Coconut Planting Programme in Noonu Ken’dhikulhudhoo and diving for sea cucumbers off the island.

Recalling his 2009 underwater cabinet meeting, which drew international attention to the topic of climate change, the President’s dive honored an initiative for sustainable aquaculture in the Maldives.

For the past two years, a researcher known as Kandholhudhoo Dombe has harvested sea cucumbers in Ken’dhikulhudhoo lake and sold them on the international market, namely to Singapore and Hong Kong, MP for the area, Ahmed Easa, told Minivan News.

“Dombe did research on sea cucumbers 20 years back, and finally, over the last few years the research has become successful,” said Easa. “We are exporting quite a lot of these, and I believe that with the government’s support we have a good opportunity to develop agriculture in the Maldives.”

Sea cucumbers are bottom-dwelling animals enjoyed most commonly in Asian countries. The species is said to have nutritional and pharmaceutical values.

The government yesterday signed a contract establishing a formal cooperative relationship between Masmeeru Investments and the Noonu Ken’dhikulhudhoo island council. Under the agreement, the lake will be used for 20 years to harvest sea cucumbers, although the lease price will be re-negotiated with the community every five years.

The project comes at no cost to the community, and Dombe is responsible for any environmental or legal damages incurred. Dombe is also required to contribute a minimum of Rf 50,000 (US$3200) annually towards community projects on the island.

The contract has also opened up job opportunities. Easa said that new staffing needs will provide between 10 and 20 jobs for locals seeking employment.

“The government wants to do this properly. Currently, the community is receiving Rf 4-5 million (US$260,000-325,000) in profits annually from the project. It’s time to invest more, and we want to protect both sides,” Easa said.

Approximately 6 tons of Maldivian sea cucumbers with a value of US$12 million are exported annually. They are currently selling for between US$130-$150 per kilogram on the international market. Locally, one cucumber sells for Rf3.

All in the timing

Easa said the initiative comes at an important time for the Maldivain economy. Although leading economic contributor tourism is expanding, the Maldives’ most profitable export industry, fishing, is entering troubled waters.

In an interview with Minivan News, Felivaru’s Deputy General Manager Mohamed Waheed observed that the Maldivian tuna catch has fallen from “very high” figures in 2005-2006 “to now less than it was in 1995-1996.”

“The main thing is that the pattern of fishing changed,” Waheed said at the time. “May to August is the low season, but we can usually still catch fish in the southern waters of the country. But this season it did not happen – we had hardly any fish in the north, and very little in the south.”

Competition from the foreign market is also cutting into local fishing profits. While fresh local fish costs between Rf18-20, the same fish tinned abroad and imported back to the Maldives costs Rf11.

Noting the struggles of the fishing industry, Easa called agriculture the next big economic contributor.

“Tourism and fishing are declining, we need another way to provide income. Sea cucumbers have a bright future. All you have to do is drop the seeds in a lagoon or a lake and let them grow for eight to twelve months,” he said.

During the events on Ken’dhikulhudhoo, President Nasheed noted that the government plans to open the fisheries sector, especially the aquaculture and mari-culture fisheries, for investors. He observed that the Maldives was “wasteful by neglecting the potential use of various products of the palm tree,” and needed to capitalise on its natural and man-made resources to meet daily requirements and generate income-boosting activity.

Overcoming obstacles

The US State Department’s profile of the Maldives notes that agriculture makes up a mere two percent of the nation’s GDP, and that the soil has traditionally supported only subsistence crops such as coconut, banana, breadfruit, papayas, mangoes, taro, betel, chilies, sweet potatoes, and onions.

The report also observes that the 2004 tsunami contaminated many groundwater reserves with salt water. The U. S. government recently contributed US$7.1 million towards improving water systems in Lhaviyani Hinnavaru and Haa alif Dhihdhoo islands.

According to Easa, hydroponic methods may overcome these obstacles.

“The government is doing a good job of informing the community on how to grow products in different systems,” he said. “At yesterday’s festivities, there were stalls instructing locals on how to grow vegetables and fruits at home using these methods.”

Organic farming methods could also yield positive positive results. Island Organics Maldives Pvt. Ltd., which was founded in 2007, supports the Maldives’ first organic farm on Baa Maarikilu.

Company founder Shahida Zubair told Minivan News that the farm uses local resources to fertilise crops by composting shredded leaves, branches and coconut husk, manure from chicken, seaweed from Thulhaadhoo and Hithaadhoo, and kitchen waste.

“We have been trying over four years to fertilise our poor soil organically and now we are successful because the soil is beginning to be alive with micro-organisms and mycorrhizal fungi and earthworms,” she said. Zubair indicated that the soil results can be achieved elsewhere and will improve crop growth.

The President also attended celebrations in Thoddoo of Alifu Alifu Atoll, where he inaugurated the tele-medicine unit at the Thoddoo Health Centre, and helped lay the foundation for new classrooms at Alifu Alifu Thoddoo School.


Investment group offers locals free dive with South Maldives initiative

Local people are being invited to experience a free diving session later this month around the islands of S. Hithadhoo, Addu Atoll, as part of a new scheme to promote the pastime nationally.

Investment group Emmen has said that people across the Maldives’ southern regions are being invited to take part in a free dive by instructors from Intoscuba during an open day on June 24.  The event, which starts at 8.00am, will also see additional entertainment and activities being held such as information events and musical performances.

The free test dives will be made available during the open day, along with a special Bubble Making activity for children between eight and ten years of age to experience the environment under the sea, according to organisers.

Following the open day, Emmen has said that entire diving courses will be on offer to interested parties at rates it claims will be “considerably lower” than those currently offered around Male’ to try and ensure strong turnouts with ongoing sponsers being sought to try and cover as much costs as possible.

According to organisers, current costs for Open Water diver and Advance Open Water Diver courses are expected to cost Rf3,900 and Rf3,300 respectively, though further reductions are being targeted with the aid of sponsorships.

Emmen claims that the dive project is expected to move towards northern regions of the country later this year.

More information is available from Emmen on (+960) 742 8225.