The state, on Tuesday, declared four environmentally rich sites in Addu Atoll as protected areas under the Environmental Protection and Preservation Act.
The Ministry of Environment announced that the areas protected from September 22 onwards are 'Kudakandu' area in Addu's lagoon, 'Maakilhi' and 'Fehele kilhi' in Hithadhoo, 'Maafishi Kilhi' (Keyvakaa Gon’do) in Hulhudhoo and 'Mathi kilhi' at the intersection of Hulhudhoo and Meedhoo.
'Kudakandu' area is known for its biodiversity, housing various types of rocks and coral as well as endangered species including Spotted Eagle Rays, sea turtles and dolphins.
'Maakilhi and 'Fehele kilhi' are two mangroves, dotted with lotus plants, found in Hithadhoo's southeastern wetlands. These mangroves assist in preventing floods on the island by draining rainwater.
Moreover, some residents conduct agricultural activities on the site, which is also home for a variety of protected birds including migratory species.
'Maafishi Kilhi' located at the southern edge of Hulhudhoo has a similar function of draining excess rainwater. In addition to various bird species, the wetlands are rich in plants such as Coastal Ironwood, Indian Tulip Trees, Seashore Screwpines and Indian Almond Trees.
With the ministry's declaration, fishing and removing corals from 'Kudakandu' is now prohibited. Similarly, catching birds, littering or taking part in any activities which harm the species in the wetlands is prohibited as well.
These four environmentally significant sites in the southernmost atoll of Maldives were also submitted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on September 30, 2019, for consideration to list as Biosphere Reserves of Addu City.
During a cabinet session, the Ministry of Environment revealed that 97 percent of Addu residents support the decision to declare Addu City a biosphere reserve.
The ministry further highlighted that this decision was made following consultations with stakeholder ministries, as well as offices and sectors involved in the development of Addu. Ministers highlighted that the protection of these sites must factor in ongoing and planned developmental projects in the city.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's administration earlier declared 11 areas from Haa Alif, Haa Dhaalu, Shaviyani and Noonu Atoll in addition to ‘Farikede Faru,’ a marine site in Fuvahmulah City, as protected sites under Section 4 of the Environmental Protection and Preservation Act of Maldives (Act No: 4/93), in accordance with the administration’s strategic action plan.
Designating at least one island, one reef and one mangrove, in each atoll, as a protected area is one of President Solih’s pledges.