The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on Wednesday, levied a fine of MVR 191,250 against the island council of Baarah, Haa Alif Atoll, for illegally clearing a large number of coconut palms from the island.
According to EPA, the council was fined under the Environmental Damage Liability Regulation' (no. 2011/R-9), for illegally uprooting and clearing vegetation from Baarah's green belt and other areas, and transporting the trees off the island.
The regulation was implemented to prevent violations of the Environmental Protection and Preservation Act and ensure compensation for any damages.
EPA granted the council a period of 30 days to settle the penalty.
Previously, the agency had similarly fined the island council of Lhaimagu, Shaviyani Atoll, over violating the same regulation.
However, the EPA and Ministry of Environment have repeatedly come under fire after several cases of vegetation being uprooted from inhabited islands, to be replanted in developing resorts, surfaced over the past few years. Notable cases include the sanctioning to clear several coconut palms from Hithadhoo in Addu Atoll, Mulah in Meemu Atoll, and Bandidhoo in Dhaalu Atoll.
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.