Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on Monday, declared that the 'greenifying' process will be evaluated prior to authorising land reclamation.
Upon being summoned to the Parliament's Environment and Climate Committee regarding the 'greenifying' of developing resorts via vegetation uprooted from inhabited islands, EPA's Director General Ahmed Naeem said that land reclamation projects will be approved only after the contractors submit an appropriate plan to greenify the area, alongside the proposal.
Moreover, Naeem expressed his disapproval of land reclamation, stating that as a result the environment will face unsustainable levels of destruction, adding that resorts should rather be built on uninhabited islands.
Additionally, he claimed that matters of tree and palm uprooting are closely monitored by the agency, revealing that two island councils and a ministry were fined over such incidents.
He stated that EPA will attend to and investigate any tips it receives regarding illegal tree uprooting.
As per EPA’s statistics, 27 out of 37 proposals to uproot trees were rejected. The other 10 projects were approved due to “necessary requirements”, said Naeem.
According to EPA, it is permissible to remove and transfer vegetation from sites where major projects are ongoing.
EPA mandates that for any projects that require the uprooting of over 200 coconut palms, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be carried out. This is to assess any potential negative consequences the project may have on the environment.
Regulations stipulate that any amount exceeding 200 palm trees, can only be uprooted for causes proven crucial for the development of the island, such as children's parks, landfills and other projects such as road development.
Although EPA's approval for uprooting trees are issued on a requirement that a new palm is planted for every uprooted palm tree, Naeem declared that in most circumstances, the condition remains unenforced.
Furthermore, responding to concerns relating to the transportation of black soil when uprooting trees, Naeem urged to refrain from removing topsoil as the surface layer is only a foot thick.
Addressing EPA's complications, Naeem revealed that various challenges in the field of monitoring exist, including the lack of an adequate budget and the need for the agency's own means of transportation.
"We are in a very difficult situation. It is a huge challenge for us to monitor every island in the manner demanded by citizens", said Naeem. He added that financial assistance must be arranged in order to strengthen EPA's efforts.