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Judge Suood calls for a National Strategic Environmental Assessment

Judge Suood called for a National Strategic Environmental Assessment to be compiled as soon as possible.

Mariyath Mohamed
16 May 2024, MVT 11:50
Judge HusnuSuood
Mariyath Mohamed
16 May 2024, MVT 11:50

Supreme Court Judge HusnuSuood has stated today that while the courts must determine the damage caused to Maldives' vulnerable environment, as well as the loss the people would face if development projects are halted, this can only be done through conducting a national level research with the involvement of all State actors.

Judge Suood called for a National Strategic Environmental Assessment to be compiled as soon as possible.

The State appealed to the Supreme Court to repeal the High Court's temporary order in relation to the case submitted to Civil Court by Environmental Activist Humaidha Abdul Ghafoor asking for a halt to the reclamation of Gulhi Falhu.

The Supreme Court repealed the High Court order yesterday, ruling that there is no justification to release a temporary order to halt the Gulhi Falhu reclamation project.

Earlier, the Supreme Court has released a separate temporary order stating that the High Court order be disregarded, and reclamation of Gulhi Falhu can be continued. Under the order, the reclamation work continued and has now reached completion.

Suood raised questions whether there are qualified scientists and sufficient researches in the Maldives to be referred to by the Court in reaching sensitive decisions such as those related to the environment and work done to reach national development goals.

The Judge said that while many land reclamation projects have been conducted in the Maldives, no research has been done into the damages caused to corals and other marine life after the dredging and reclamation is completed, whether the marine life is revived after the projects, and if it does, the duration it takes to do so.

"Another reason that obstructs the issuance of such a court order is that no research has been done into what can be done to promote restoration of coral reefs," the ruling reads.

Suood said that he did not believe the court could decide on real and permanent damage, or which party will face more severe loss when the court does not have access to scientific research conducted into the economic and social benefits the citizens will receive through a project such as this.

Suood called on the government to shape their policies in such a way that issues like this do not recur.

Suood maintained that issues such as this cannot be resolved unless through conducting a national level research as previously mentioned. He emphasized that conducting and implementing an assessment such as this would lend emphasis to Article 20 of the Maldives' Constitution, which states, "Every individual is equal before and under the law, and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law".

To do this, the judge said, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to be made more robust financially and with necessary resources to a level where they can fulfill their duties. He stated that the legal independence and authority necessary for the agency to function must also be provided.

" such, I feel that the Green Tax taken by the State must be utilized to make this agency resourceful," the order said.

Suood further added that in the instance a project such as dredging or reclamation is halted due to authorities observing that it is causing environmental damage, it must be included that the contractor is not owed any reimbursement or compensation in such a situation.

He stated that the State must include a clause in all agreements that stipulate that contractors must cooperate with environmental agencies.

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