The Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Climate Change proposed the allocation of land for a minimum of 6,000 housing units from the ongoing reclamation of industrial island Gulhifalhu, Kaafu Atoll, in addition to economic use.
The government had revealed its decision to move ahead with the reclamation of 30 hectares of land in Gulhifalhu on May 6 despite warnings from local NGOs, environmental movements and conservationists that the project could cause irreversible damage to a fragile marine environment.
Following multiple concerns raised, the environment committee decided on June 2 to investigate potential damages to neighbouring Vilimale's house reef, as a result of the ongoing reclamation at Gulhifalhu.
Upon investigation, the report submitted by the committee noted the need to increase the project's socio-economic outcomes due to its significant impact on the environment. As such, the committee suggested for the government to allocate 15 percent of the reclaimed land for housing, as a means to tackle the congestion and lack of housing faced in the capital Male'.
The report also called for the formulation of a temporary committee with relevant institutions to monitor the progress of the reclamation, and ensure that the measures instructed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are being implemented during the project. The report further suggested daily updates on the impacts on the Villimale' reef, followed by weekly EPA reports on these developments, to be disseminated via the media.
Moreover, the committee suggested establishing a portal to submit complaints regarding the project.
Amid much criticism levied against the EPA, with many accusing the agency of being under the administration's influence, the committee highlighted the need to establish EPA as an independent institution. It further proposed to take action against projects that do not adhere to mitigation measures to minimise environmental damages as stated by Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
In addition, the committee proposed the government to establish a threshold depth for land reclamation and to include a budgetary component in project proposals dedicated to environmental protection.
Awarded to Dutch dredging company Boskalis Westminster Contracting Ltd without the mandated bidding process, the Gulhifalhu reclamation project intends to facilitate the relocation of the Male’ Commercial Port to the industrial island, as well as create accommodation for 40,000 expatriates.
The move also raises concerns over the living conditions of expatriates and locals alike to be housed on the island. Each year, during the Southwest monsoon 'Hulhangu', toxic fumes from the nearby garbage island Thilafushi engulf the islands of Gulhifalhu, Vilimale' and Male'.