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Surfers conclude citizen-led 'Raalhugandu' cleanup

Ahmed Aiham
24 February 2019, MVT 19:15
A crane is used to remove large pillars of marine debris across Raalhugandu. PHOTO: ALI AHSAN/COOKIE PICTURE
Ahmed Aiham
24 February 2019, MVT 19:15

Maldives Bodyboarding Association (MBBA) and Maldives Surfing Association (MSA) conclude the public-initiated cleanup of the famed surf spot 'Raalhugandu' in Capital City Male.

Surfers organized the cleanup following rising concerns over dangerous marine debris littered throughout the seabed due to a failure to properly dismantle and clean the location of the Sinamale Bridge, post construction.

China Communications Construction Company Ltd (C.C.C.C), the contractor of the Sinamale Bridge, stated that the company will dismantle and clear away the construction debris from the seabed of Raalhugandu Area on the southeast coast of capital Male City.

However, Event Organizer and MBBA President Abdulla Areef expressed that C.C.C.C failed to carry out the clearance of marine debris littered across 'Raalhugandu'.

"...It is not safe to surf here as it is, so it would be best to have it cleaned, as in the same manner that it was trashed", said Abdulla Areef, alluding to the matter being a state responsibility.

Additionally, he further explained that the trestle bridge used to support the construction work was partially demolished, leaving some of the sharp cylindrical pillars jutting out of the water, posing great risks to those using the area.

A partially demolished pillar in the shallows of Raalhugandu area. The pillars are exposed above sea level with the surge of incoming waves. PHOTO: AHMED AZNIL/AZNIL PHOTOGRAPHY

The Edition received several statements estimating that over 5 tons of debris were collected in and out of the water surrounding Raalhugandu and the presence of additional uncollected debris. It was observed that approximately 100-200 people participated in the activities.

An official weight count of the debris is yet to be announced by the organizers.

Surfers atop the Sinamale Bridge used ropes to hoist marine debris out of water and onto the bridge. PHOTO: ALI AHSAN/COOKIE PICTURE

A plethora of environmental NGOs, dive centres, government institutions and private companies supported the full-day cleanup project, including Save the Beach, Dive Desk, Sea Sports, Moodhu Bulhaa, PARLEY, Maldives National Defence Force, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment and Ministry of National Planning and Infrastructure.

A large amount of marine debris and a 10-foot pillar removed from Raalhugandu. PHOTO: ALI AHSAN/COOKIE PICTURE

The former Minister of Housing, Dr Mohamed Muizzu previously closed off Raalhugandu in March 2016 with the commencement of the construction and re-opened on September 7, 2018 with an announcement that stated "We banned surfing for safety purposes. So with the unveiling of the bridge, all surfers should happily get back to surfing again!", leading to a public outcry from surfers regarding dangerous debris the surf break was littered with.

The 2-year hiatus hit the surfing community hard, as professional competitors found themselves having to travel much further to sustain their training routines and maintain a competitive edge.

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