The Environment Protection Agency (EPA), on Wednesday, rejected the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that was carried out to judge the viability of airport development on the island of Fainu in Raa Atoll.
Deputy Director General of EPA Ibrahim Mohamed stated that the EIA was rejected due to the absence of important information.
EPA noted that consultations with people directly affected by airport development, including farmers and recreationists, were not included in the EIA.
In addition, the vegetation survey did not specify the number and trees to be removed, the compensation method or the party responsible for carrying it out. According to EPA, no reference was made to the regulations concerning the conservation of old plants and trees in Maldives.
EPA also highlighted that information regarding the employment opportunities created as a result of the project were not specified.
The agency called the EIA's chapter on impacts and mitigations of the report 'inadequate' for such a large scale project as possible impacts on groundwater, terrestrial fauna and erosion and accretion patterns were unspecified, adding that information on mitigation of the impacts on affected people and vegetation was insufficient as well.
The Fainu airport development project has come under harsh criticism from numerous groups. ECOCARE Maldives, an environmental NGO, has stated that the proposed project would benefit resort owners rather than the residents of Fainu.
On Wednesday, a protest against airport development in Fainu was held outside EPA by Navaanavai, a movement responsible for organizing several recent political demonstrations.
Fathmath Saairaa from Navaanavai spoke to the media highlighting the environmental damage that will result from the project as well as the complicated nature of the language the EIA was written in.
Reportedly, Navaanavai, Save Maldives and several environmentalists have consulted the Fainu airport report review team.
The Ministry of Tourism assigned the USD 8 million (MVR 123 million) project to Island Aviation Services (IAS) last May. IAS stated that they would finish the first stage of the three-phase project within a year.
The proposed airport will take up 20.8 hectors out of a total 59 hectors of available land on the island. The project will include a runway measuring 1,320 metres in length and 30 metres in length, a 45-meter apron, a hangar and a training facility. Other developments planned as part of the project include a city hotel, a medical centre and surgery recovery facilities.