Experts in the dark on effects of Meedhoo reef crack

The long-term effects of a crack in Dhaalu Atoll Meedhoo Island reef are unknown, experts have told Minivan News.

The crack – 5 inches wide running at least 13 meters deep – was discovered on the reef slope this week in the aftermath of a 20-hectare reclamation project. Reefs protect shorelines from storm surges and are hotspots for marine biodiversity.

Although cracks have previously been reported on Malé City and Thilafushi Island reefs, there have been no studies on their impacts, environmentalist and dive instructor Azim Musthag told Minivan News.

“This is concerning because we do not know what the long-term effects of cracks caused by industrial action are,” he said, noting that cracks sometimes do appear naturally in the reef.

The Ministry of Environment and Energy has said it is unclear if the crack was caused by reclamation work, and said a team from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is currently on the island to investigate how the crack was formed as well as its possible long-term effects.

Even if the crack was caused by reclamation, there might not be any cause for concern with work already completed, environmental expert at CDE Consulting Ahmed Shaig said. But, possible extreme negative effects could be the collapse of parts of the reef slope, he said.

A 2007 study of the cracks in the northeastern slope of the Malé reef projected that the island’s reef edge may retreat if eroded parts of the reef fall in.

The study by former deputy director at the Environmental Research Center Mahmood Riyaz said Malé City’s reef slope consists of hard coral rock in the first two- three meters called cap rock, and a layer of weakly cemented and highly erodible mixture of coral sand at between four and six meters.

The cracks had removed the hard cap layer, exposing the weakly cemented layer to further erosion, and “eroded parts are expected to fall into the atoll lagoon and cause further retreat of the reef edge,” the study said.

The Malé reef had cracked in areas under a lot of weight and subject to continuous vibration generating work such as construction, the study said.

Meedhoo Councillor Abdul Azeez said he too was unsure if the crack was caused by reclamation, but said the project had caused severe damage to the reef due to sedimentation.

Only 100 feet remained between the new shoreline and the reef edge, “so sedimentation is unavoidable,” Azeez said. But he welcomed the reclamation project saying “this is a dream come true after 22 years.”

Sedimentation had been caused by dredging company Royal Boskalis Westminster’s failure to build a barrier to prevent excess dredge from spilling on to the reef. Photos show healthy corals inundated by sand across large swathes of the reef.

Azim said the reef would take years before it began recovering and said it might be at further risk of sedimentation by sand spillover if the new shoreline is left unprotected.

The reclamation project has come under fire for using a method called the rainbow technique, which propels sand and salt through the air, covering houses and shoreline vegetation in dredge soil. The fine sand particles thrust into the air may cause respiratory issues, the Health Protection Agency has warned.

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Heritage department to hold coral mosque exhibition

The Department of Heritage has announced it will hold a special exhibition to raise public awareness of six coral stone mosques currently being considered for UNESCO world heritage site status.

“The purpose of hosting an exhibition for this theme is because recently 6 coral stone mosques of Maldives have been inscribed on the tentative list of world heritage sites and now we are trying to inscribe the mosques on the permanent list,” said the department’s Director Ali Waheed.

The exhibition for the mosques – two in Malé, and one in Ihavandhoo, Meedhoo, Isdhoo, and Fenfushi – will run between April 21 and April 30 at the National Museum.

“By arranging such an exhibition will give the opportunity to raise awareness among students and the public about this nomination,” said Waheed in a press release today.

Potential world heritage sites must be listed on the tentative list at least one year prior to their nomination for the full list.

Successful nominations must include meet at least one of UNESCO’s ten selection criteria. The coral mosques will be nominated as meeting four of the cultural criteria points, which include:

  • sites that exhibit an important interchange of human values on developments in architecture
  • sites that bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition
  • sites considered to be outstanding examples of a type of building which illustrates a significant stage in human history
  • sites which are directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance

Waheed explained that further detailed evidence was needed before the final submission could be completed, in particular work to prove that the lacquer work exhibited in the mosques is unique to the Maldives.

Admission onto the world heritage site would bring the benefits of cultural tourism and maintenance funds to the sites.

The submission to UNESCO’s tentative list – made in February 2013 – described the mosques as a unique fusion of the Indian sub-continental, the Swahili, Malayan, and the Arab cultures.

“The ensemble of coral stone architecture and a building typology of such a representation of many maritime cultures of Indian Ocean are altogether unique, rare and cannot be found in any other part of the world,” read the submitted documents.

The submission explained that coral – taken from live boulder on the seabed – became the primary building material from the Maldives’ pre-Islamic era (prior to 1153) until the late 18th century.

Being further refined during the Islamic period, east African Swahili techniques were used to complement those of the Buddhist era, read the submission, which details the features of each mosque.

“These mosques as living mosques also embody the intangible and spiritual values of the communities and bear witness to the spread of Islam in the Indian Ocean region.”

Friday Mosque, Ihavandhoo, Haa Alifu atoll

Built during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Muzhiruddin, the mosque remains in use today. The mosque’s cemetery contains the tombstones of many famous figures from the country’s history, including the independence hero Mohamed Thakurufaanu.

The mosque is described as being the finest example of a coral stone mosque with ‘Dhaala’ (verandah like antechambers). “The mosque has got great potential to be restored to its original state and regain its position as the best coral stone mosque in the north of Maldives,” read the submission.

Friday Mosque, Meedhoo, Raa atoll

Meedhoo’s Friday Mosque is believed to have been built under the reign of the first Sultan from Dhiyamigili Dynasty, Sultan Muzaffar Mohamed Imaduddin II around 1705. The mosque is unique as the only surviving example of clay roof tiling.

“The fact that the mosque is still being used by communities far away from the mosque proves the high ancestral values placed to this mosque by local communities,” commented the Department of Heritage.

Friday Mosque, Malé, Kaafu atoll

First submitted for heritage status in 1987, Malé’s friday mosque is considered the country’s most important heritage site. Built in 1658 during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar I on the site of the first mosque built after conversion, the mosque is considered to be the one of the finest coral stone buildings in the world.

“The architecture, construction and accompanying artistry of the mosque and its other structures represent the creative excellence and achievement of the Maldivian people,” the Heritage Department has said.

Eid Mosque, Malé, Kaafu atoll

The Eid Mosque was built during the time of Al-Sultan Mohamed Muinuddin in 1815, and rests on a highly decorated coral stone platform with carved coral stone walls and a timber roof structure.

“It is the last of the coral stone mosques and has the best ornamentation and craftsmanship of all the mosques in the country and is in good condition,” explained the department.

Friday Mosque, Fenfushi, Alifu Dhaalu atoll

Built between 1692-1701, during the reign of Sultan Mohamed of Dhevvadhu, the Fenfushi mosque features a unique coral stone bathing tank, coral stone wells, a sun-dial, and a large cemetery.

The designs on the steps to the pool suggest it had been built during the Buddhist era.

Isdhoo Old Mosque, Isdhoo, Laamu atoll

Dating from the reign of Sultan Ali VII in 1701, the coral mosque in Isdhoo is where the copper chronicles ‘Isdhoo Loamaafaanu’ (1195) – the oldest historical writings found in the Maldives – were once kept.

It is believed that the mosque was built from materials left over after the construction of Malé’s Friday Mosque.

“The existence of Isdhoo copper plate with much important historical written information, serves as a support for the authenticity of this mosque. Due to this historical significance for this mosque, the mosque is highly protected and valued,” said the department’s UNESCO submission.

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Woman sentenced to exile over misappropriation of tsunami relief funds

A woman has been sentenced to exile for three years and seven months by the Criminal Court for misappropriation of tsunami relief funds.

Criminal Court said that Sharmeela Sharaeef of Oivaru, Meedhoo in Dhaalu Atoll, had been initially been handed MVR 266,888 (US$17,307) by the government on September 16, 2009, local media reported.

However, only MVR 89,572 (US$5800) was distributed to 49 households and the remaining MVR 177,316  (US$11,500) had been kept in her desk drawer, according to local media.

The money was provided by the government to be distributed to farmers on the island of Meedhoo in Dhaalu Atoll, who suffered losses during the 2004 tsunami.

The Criminal Court ruling stated that one day after she had been handed the relief funds, MVR 13,200 kept in Sharmeela’s care had gone missing.

The ruling stated that it could not be proven in court that a copy of the drawer key was held by anyone else other than Sharmeela.

According to the Public Finance Act, money kept in an office on a temporary basis should only be kept in a safe, local media reported.

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‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam says World Bank cannot give any more money to Maldives

MP for Meedhoo constituency Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam has informed the Majlis that, after meeting with a representative of the World Bank, he was told that no additional money could be provided to the Maldives, reports Sun Online.

“The reason given by him is that Maldivian citizens are being forced to cope with political unrest and danger. He said that Maldivians are in dismay, and that investors are apprehensive about investing in Maldives,” he said.

Shiyam was reported in local media as telling the Majlis that investor confidence was being negatively affected by the country’s politics.

Sun reported Shiyam as saying that more attention should be given to the opinions of foreigners in the Maldives affairs and that new faces were needed on the political scene.

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Unicef to help combat erosion in Meedhoo

The Central Province office has said an agreement will be signed with Unicef to combat beach erosion in Dhaalu atoll Meedhoo, Voice of Maldives reports.

Ibrahim Umar Manik, deputy state minister, said funds had been secured after a survey conducted on the island to determine the cost of the project. He added land reclamation on Meedhoo will also protect its sewerage plant and football field, located about ten feet away from the beach.

Meedhoo islanders have put up sandbagged at the beach as a temporary measure to prevent erosion. Umar said a permanent solution would be to reclaim land and construct a pier or harbour.

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