Environmentalists are expressing concern over the removal of several palm trees from three islands to transport to resorts.
Hundreds of palm trees were uprooted from Baarah and Kelaa in Haa Alif Atoll as well as Foakaidhoo, Shaviyani Atoll, after which they were taken to resorts aboard a dredger.
The issue of illegal palm tree procurement by resorts recently gained prominence. Although the government finalised the decision to amend regulations concerning tree removal, more than four months have passed since the administration collected public opinions on the matter. Legislative changes are yet to be proposed.
Baarah Island Council President Asif Abdulla revealed to local media Mihaaru that palm trees on the island were being removed to clear land for a sewerage project.
He assured that the project, launched an year earlier, was being conducted with permission from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The council president added that 10 palm trees were uprooted and transported to a resort.
However, he did not specify which resort, stating that he did not remember.
Meanwhile, approximately 200 or 300 palm trees were uprooted from Foakaidhoo to establish a powerhouse and a community centre.
A member of Foakaidhoo Island Council revealed that it had attained authorization from EPA. He disclosed that that the company managing the resort agreed to carry out levelling work on the island's roads in exchange for the palm trees.
The councillor stated that there was no space in the island to replant the palm trees. The Foakaidhoo Councillor also did not disclose which resort was involved.
Kelaa Island Council President Aminath Ismail stated that the trees being uprooted on the island were located within private property with clearance from EPA and declined to provide additional information.
According to regulations, permission from EPA must be sought if more than ten palm trees are uprooted while the removal of any amount exceeding 200 palm trees, can only be carried out following an Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA).
A 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.