The Island Council of Mulah, Meemu Atoll, announced last Thursday that 819 palms are to be uprooted and planted in different locations to clear land for three major development projects.
The project met heavy criticism by environmentalists across social media platforms, following the announcement
However, the Council stated that tree transportations will be conducted in the least environmentally damaging way.
Council President Mohamed Ibrahim revealed that the land would be utilized for a new football pitch, a landfill and two roads.
Additionally, he stated that as the palm trees were large, the process of replanting them on the island would be difficult for the council. Hence, the Council believes assigning the relocation of the palms to a contractor would be more effective.
As part of the Council's requirements, the contractors will plant a young coconut palm on the island for every uprooted palm tree.
"We are trying to do this with as minimal damage as possible", said the Council President.
Moreover, Mohamed stated that the council has acquired the necessary permits from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) before announcing the project.
The contractors are mandated to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prior to commencing the project.
EPA on Saturday stated that it authorises the removal and transfer of vegetation from sites where major projects are in progress.
"Land clearance is necessary for agriculture and major development projects such as airports. In most cases, there is no space for uprooted palms and trees to be replanted on the same island", a statement released by EPA highlighted.
The statement further revealed that transfer of vegetation is only allowed under these circumstances, as replanting the trees in another island with the required permits is the most beneficial option in that scenario.
The government only issues permits to uproot more than 200 palms and plants if the island required land clearance for projects such as parks, landfill sites, or roads.
However, many environmentalists have been raising their voices against the destruction of vegetation, drawing attention to the environmental issues and disadvantages of disrupting large areas of the ecosystem from islands for development purposes.