The government announced an environment 'umbrella' regulation aimed at preserving protected islands and lagoon areas on Sunday.
According to the national gazette no. 2018/R-78, the new regulation refers to the 'conservation of protected areas and nature reserves', and updates classifications and new regulations to the Environment Protection and Preservation Act enforced in 1993 (EPPA 4/93).
In a statement given to The Edition, a spokesperson from Ministry of Environment and Energy said that the regulation addresses the protection and preservation of Maldives' natural ecosystems through the conservation of protected areas, nature reserves, and biodiversity.
Clause 8 of the regulation states that a registry of protected areas must be maintained and made public by EPA.
Additional new areas deemed worthy of preservation, are also to be sought out and researched by the agency and may be brought to protected status after discussion within the ministry.
To date, a total of 42 areas consisting of marine, mangrove and terrestrial ecosystems and one biosphere reserve, amounting approximately 24, 494 hectares have been protected under EPPA 4/93.
The regulation also grants parties tasked with preservation and management of protected areas, the right to levy fees to the use of such areas, should the need arise. Prior to the newly introduced regulation, individual regulations had to be passed to protect each site, regardless of its environmental significance, or threats faced
For instance, regulations under the Environment Protection and Preservation Act (4/93), such as Hanifaru Protection and Preservation Regulation, required applicants to undergo specific procedures for the management and protective measures to be enforced.
However, the need to seek site-specific policing is hence nullified as these areas are now protected under the new regulations.
The regulation outlines the following seven categories of protected areas;
Internationally protected areas - any area claimed and preserved by international conservation agencies.
Strict nature reserve - Areas protected due to the significant biodiversity and habitat importance.
EPA may conduct experiments and research activities at these reserves under firm guidelines. Civilian use of the area and its resources is prohibited.
Wilderness areas - Relatively well preserved sites, that despite limited human influence, have not experienced a degradation of natural resources. Environment-friendly activities may be conducted.
National park - Areas declared for the preservation of the habitat, biodiversity, and natural resources. It may be utilized for purposes related to scientific research, education, and ecotourism.
Natural monument - Sites conserved to preserve one or more unique natural features or organisms present in the surroundings or due to the overall biodiversity of the location. Activities that do not affect the ecosystem, biodiversity or natural habitat may be conducted.
Habitat / species management area - areas that have been identified and protected to preserve the habitat and inhabiting species. Such areas may be utilized for sustainable economic gain.
Protected areas with sustainable use - natural areas identified to also be of cultural significance. A majority of the site must be preserved, though remaining resources may be utilized in a sustainable manner. (Information above is derived from an unofficial translation of the gazette 2018/R-78)
Providing a framework for outsourcing management of protected areas to state or private institutions, the regulation further stipulates that an agreement must be signed between EPA and interested parties wishing to take on the enforcement of relevant policies.
Parties are also required to present management and financial plans prior to proposing such an agreement.