Oil drilling and sea-based tourism “cannot coexist”, says Executive Director of local NGO Bluepeace Ali Rilwan, who has suggested that drilling for oil will create a number of problems.
Rilwan’s comments follow further confirmation this week from President Abdulla Yameen that that the government will commence work on locating crude oil in the Maldives.
According to local news outlet CNM, Yameen said that if the government is indeed successful in finding oil in the Maldives, the outlook for the entire country would change for the better.
These statements were made at a land reclamation ceremony held on Sunday (March 16) on the island of Meedhoo in Dhaalu atoll. Speaking at the launch, President Yameen suggested that the Maldives could be developed using available resources.
When asked which would be more beneficial to the Maldives, Rilwan said “it’s a choice of the government.” He noted that with the large income from tourism and the spread of guest houses in local isands, the oil drilling “won’t have benefits for the people as a whole.”
“We can’t afford to go into that dirty energy,” he concluded. “When you take up the issues of drilling, we are concerned about the oil container tanks with unrefined fuel passing through.”
With this in mind, Rilwan asked, “can we avoid a distaster in the Maldives? The Maldives is a tiny island and this can have a very negative impact, the tanks are a worrying thing.”
Famed for its luxury resorts, the Maldives has relied on tourism for an estimated 70 – 80% of its GDP. Plans to look for oil in the past had aimed to diversify the nation’s economy.
There are currently no confirmed plans for the location of the drilling, should it take place – an uncertainty which has made it difficult for environmentalists to comment on the matter.
Rilwan noted that the fact that it is not known whether drilling will be coastal or off-shore makes it difficult to predict environmental issues.
The renewed interest in the search for oil was prompted by the results of seismic reports conducted in 1991– the recent findings of which have caused authorities to seek foreign assistance.
The Maldives National Oil Company (MNOC) was founded in 2003 to take direct responsibility for the development of oil and gas industry in the Maldives.
“The fact that two leading oil exploration companies in the world had invested in exploration drilling in the Maldives, keeps up the glimmer of hope for commercial success of oil and gas exploration in the Maldives,” the MNOC has said previously.
“Today, with the remarkable improvement of technology in the area of oil and exploration such as three or four dimensional seismic survey systems etc., the Maldives National Oil Company is hopeful that oil or gas can be discovered in Maldives.”
Managing director of the MNOC Ahmed Muneez told local media last month that the government intended to start work on new exploration within a few months.
“We have contacted a Norwegian company and a German company to help us better understand the findings of the study. Based on this report, we’re hopeful of advertising the Maldives as a new destination of oil exploration,” Haveeru quoted Muneez as saying.
He explained that an outside company would be hired to conduct a global advertising campaign in order to market the country as an oil source.
Under the presidency of Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives – famously vulnerable to the effects of climate change – had pledged to become carbon neutral by 2020.
Nasheed stated that the Maldives was a key model for other countries seeking to become more sustainable, and that an inability to meet the unilateral commitments would prove detrimental to wider arguments around the globe for adopting law carbon initiatives.
The government of Nasheed’s successor Dr Mohamed Waheed also said that it was committed to “not completely” reversing the Nasheed administration’s zero carbon strategy: “What we are aiming to do is to elaborate more on individual sustainable issues and subject them to national debate,” said Waheed.
Speaking to Minivan in October 2012, the government assured that they were adhering to their commitment to become carbon neutral by 2020 in spite of political uncertainty.
“We are continuing with the carbon neutrality program,” she said. “We are giving it our best shot,” said then Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela.
Minivan News was unable to obtain comments from the Ministry of Environment and Energy at the time of press.