Ministry of Environment (EPA) is scheduled to host a forum on May 21, seeking public comment on revising the Regulation on Uprooting, Cutting and Transportation of Palms and Trees.
The regulation falls under The Environment Protection and Preservation Act of Maldives (4/93). The ministry has exhausted the initial period allocated for the acceptance of public opinions regarding the regulation via email.
According to EPA, it is permissible to remove and transfer vegetation from sites where major projects are ongoing.
"Land clearance is necessary for agriculture and major development projects such as airports. In most cases, there is no space for uprooted palms and trees to be replanted on the same island", highlighted EPA.
The statement further revealed that transfer of vegetation is only allowed under such circumstances and that replanting the trees on another island with the required permits is the most beneficial option in that scenario.
Additionally, the government only issues permits to uproot more than 200 palm trees and plants if land clearance is required for projects such as parks, landfill sites, or road development.
During the tenure of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, then Environment Ministry’s Director General Mohamed Zahir (Meemu Zaviyani) stated that a major obstacle to progress was the overlap of regulations across institutions.
“Legal contradictions exist, ongoing disputes over regulatory issues across different ministries contradict each other. We are still trying to overcome these difficulties to this date,” said Zahir at the news conference held on Thursday.
Numerous environmentalists have begun raising their voices against vegetation removal, drawing attention to the environmental issues and disadvantages of disrupting large areas of island ecosystems for development purposes.
Several cases of vegetation being uprooted from inhabited islands to be replanted in developing resorts have surfaced, including the recent sanctioning to clear several coconut palms from Addu City Square in Hithadhoo. Permission was granted on the condition that the trees are replanted elsewhere in Addu Atoll.
The residents of the region have protested against the removal of the palm trees as part of the project to revamp the city square.
Moreover, 819 palms are to be uprooted and planted in different locations to clear land for three major development projects in Mulah, Meemu Atoll.
Environmental experts state that due to such destructive actions, the delicate nature of the Maldivian environment is facing severe repercussions such as erosion and loss of habitat for indigenous creatures.
A recent movement started by local environment advocates under the hashtag #MVTreeGrab has been widely credited as having brought the issue of uprooting palm trees and "tropical deforestation" to a phase of action.