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Noonu Maafaru Airport Expansion Project, Maldives


Description:

A planned expansion of an already controversial airport was halted by the Maldivian EPA due to the immense and irreversible damages that it would cause to the local environment and community [1,2]. The decision was overturned by the Environment Minister Dr. Hussain Rasheed Hassan (whose government’s manifesto pledges include protecting and preserving the natural heritage of the country) on the insistence of tourism industry players who are set to benefit massively from the increase in tourists, as well as pressure from the island community who view the international airport as welcome “development” that will further their national profile while providing trickle-down economic benefits. 

In December of 2019, EPA rejects land reclamation request for Maafaru Airport expansion. However In January of 2020,  despite EPA rejects land reclamation request for Maafaru Airport expansion, Ministre of Environment overrides the decision of the EPA and approves the second phase expansion project [8].

The airport expansion project is set to continue unless and until something is done to save this environmentally sensitive and ecologically significant area. Noteworthy points from the EPA decision statement include [6]:

1. The aim of the project “is not a valid justification when compared to the long-term environmental and socio-economic negative impacts that would arise from this project”.

2. “Reclamation works would lead to permanent loss of a large area of Maafaru lagoon, affecting the surrounding coral reef ecosystem.”

3.“Sand borrow site for the reclamation has a rich sea-grass bed, which is a habitat for many juvenile marine lives as well as a sea-turtle grazing area.”

4. “Island is known for sea-turtle nesting, hence the loss of the grazing site as well as the turtle nesting beaches due to predictable erosion, from the activities of this project will have a direct negative impact on the marine life within the vicinity.”[3,4,5]

5. “Dredging the inner lagoon would result in turbidity and sedimentation as well as changes to the hydrodynamics which would most likely result in erosion and accretion of the unprotected coastal areas in the residential side of Maafaru…”

6. “The airport expansion footprint will affect a total of 22,000 trees which is a major portion of the existing vegetation of the island. Furthermore, this area also contains plots allocation for residential buildings, pending constructions. Hence, if the compensation plots are to be allocated from the available land, on the other end of the island, that would mean the last remaining mature vegetation of the island would also be destroyed and Maafaru would be left barren of any of its original mature vegetation.”

Save Maldives Campaign has been advocating to stop environmental destruction since late 2017, specifically in connection with the destruction of Kulhudhuffushi mangroves and wetlands to build an airport. In this case, the campaign has been raising concerns about environmental destruction in many of its forms which has been happening and continuing to happen in the Maldives over the last decade [7]. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Noonu Maafaru Airport Expansion Project, Maldives
Country:Maldives
State or province:Noonu
Location of conflict:Maafaru
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Tourism services
Land
lagoon

Project Details and Actors

Project details

22,000 trees lost; 58.2 hectares of reclaimed reef; 75 hectares of lagoon permanently lost; 3,200 meter long runway planned, of which 2,200 exists; 65 hectares of land already given for existing airport; 1,455,000 cubic meters of sand dredged from a footprint of 205, 000 square meters; 8.2 hectares of land cleared of which 3.8 hectares have mature vegetation and 4.36 hectares already cleared; size of Maafaru island is 119 hectares; 517 hectares of seagrass bed on Maafaru of which 42 hectares permanently lost; 43 recorded species of fish; Hawksbill Turtle (IUCN Red List) affected; 106 jobs directly created, ~40 indirectly created;

Project area:65.7
Level of Investment:52,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:715
Start of the conflict:01/04/2017
Company names or state enterprises:Island Aviation Services Limited (IAS) from Maldives
Tuff Infrastructure Pvt Ltd Singapore (subsidiary of Tuff Group AG) from Singapore - Contractor
Sun Siyam Resorts from Maldives - Contractor
GK Developments Company from India - Subcontractor
CDE Consulting from Maldives - Consultants
Relevant government actors:Regional Airports (Maldives); Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Maldives); Environmental Protection Agency (Maldives); Ministry of Environment (Maldives); Civil Aviation Authority (Maldives); Maafaru Island Council;
International and Finance InstitutionsAbu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) from United Arab Emirates
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:SaveMaldives (https://savemaldives.net/)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Global warming, Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights

Outcome

Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:In January of 2020, despite EPA rejects land reclamation request for Maafaru Airport expansion, the Ministre of Environment overrides the decision of the EPA and approves the second phase expansion project. This decision was taken after dismissing the EPA's decision to reject, the expectation is that the project has been approved to continue [8].

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Law on Cultural and Historical Places and Objects of the Maldives (27/79)
http://www.mvlaw.gov.mv/pdf/ganoon/chapterII/27-79.pdf

Regulation for the Protection and Conservation of the Natural Life and CHaracter of Old Plants and Trees in Maldives
http://www.mvlaw.gov.mv/pdf/gavaid/minHousing/R78-2018.pdf

General Laws Act (4/68)
http://www.mvlaw.gov.mv/pdf/ganoon/chapterI/4-68.pdf

Lan Use Planning Regulation and Guidelines (2005)
http://www.mvlaw.gov.mv/pdf/gavaid/minHousing/17.pdf

Act on Decentralising the Administrative Divisions of the Maldievs (7/2010)
http://www.mvlaw.gov.mv/pdf/ganoon/chapterI/7-2010.pdf

Regulation on Dredging and Land Reclamation
http://www.mvlaw.gov.mv/pdf/gavaid/minHousing/R15-2013.pdf

Regulation for Cutting Down, Uprooting, Digging Out and Export of Trees and Palms from One Island to Another
http://www.mvlaw.gov.mv/pdf/gavaid/minHousing/uprooting.pdf

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Maafaru airport contractor seeks extended deadline (The Edition, 21 March 2019)
https://edition.mv/news/9718

Maafaru airport incomplete due to bribery: Nasheed (The Edition, 3 April 2019)
https://edition.mv/news/9911

'Maafaru airport will be a gift from UAE' (The Edition, 25 December 2017)
https://edition.mv/news/4787

President Yameen inaugurates Maafaru International Airport (The Edition, 29 August 2018)
https://edition.mv/news/6997

Fraught with fraudulence: Maafaru International Airport (The Edition, 5 December 2018)
https://edition.mv/report/8137

GKD takes Maafaru airport contractor to court (The Edition, 23 December 2018)
https://edition.mv/news/8425

Maafaru International Airport under audit (The Edition, 16 December 2018)
https://edition.mv/news/8312

EOI Invitation for Prequalification to Bid for Construction Works
http://www.gazette.gov.mv/iulaan/view/99433

Turtle steals maiden landing on Maafaru runway (The Edition, 9 April 2019)
https://edition.mv/news/10034

EPA rejects land reclamation request for Maafaru Airport expansion (The Edition, 29 December 2019)
https://edition.mv/news/14205

Another lost turtle found at Maafaru Airport (The Edition, 31 December 2019)
https://edition.mv/news/14217

State approves Maafaru Airport runway expansion (The Edition, 13 January 2020)
https://edition.mv/news/14389

Endangered turtle returns to beach to lay its eggs only to find runway has been built (The Independent (UK), 11 April 2019)
https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-sea-turtle-maldives-airport-runway-beach-eggs-a8865051.html

[3] Turtle steals maiden landing on Maafaru runway (The Edition, 9 April 2019)
https://edition.mv/news/10034

[4] Another lost turtle found at Maafaru Airport (The Edition, 31 December 2019)
https://edition.mv/news/14217

Local firm to develop domestic airport in Maafaru (The Edition, 27 April 2017)
https://edition.mv/news/3063

High Court declines to stop handover of Maafaru airport (The Edition, 17 May 2017)
https://edition.mv/news/3234

ACC requests suspension of Regional Airports Deputy Director (The Edition, 5 November 2018)
https://edition.mv/news/7739

Transport Minister to talk Maafaru Airport issues with ADFD (The Edition, 26 December 2018)
https://edition.mv/news/8475

"International flights to be operated from Maafaru Airport" (AvasOnline, 25 December 2019)
https://avas.mv/en/73819

Maafaru International Airport readies for international flights in December (Maldives Business Review, 25 November 2019)
https://mbr.mv/7812/

Act on Decentralising the Administrative Divisions of the Maldievs (7/2010)
www.mvlaw.gov.mv/pdf/ganoon/chapterI/7-2010.pdf

[5] Endangered turtle returns to beach to lay its eggs only to find runway has been built (The Independent (UK), 11 April 2019)
https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-sea-turtle-maldives-airport-runway-beach-eggs-a8865051.html

[8] State approves Maafaru Airport runway expansion (The Edition, 13 January 2020)
https://edition.mv/news/14389

EOI Invitation for Prequalification to Bid for Construction Works (Gazette of the Maldivian Government, 28 March 2019)
http://www.gazette.gov.mv/iulaan/view/99433

Maldives customs stop illegal export of coconut palms (Maldives Independent, 3 November 2018)
https://maldivesindependent.com/environment/maldives-customs-stop-illegal-export-of-coconut-palms-142428

Maldivian begins flights to Maafaru International Airport (The Edition, 1 December 2019)
https://edition.mv/news/13712

"Corruption watchdog orders halt on payment for Maafaru airport contractors" (raajje.mv, 8 November 2018)
https://raajje.mv/44098

"N. Maafaru airport expansion project was rejected by EPA. Below is the decision statement for the project." (@EPAMaldives on Twitter, 29 December 2019)
https://twitter.com/EPAMaldives/status/1211096007238287360?s=20

Environment Minister visits Maafaru to 'further investigate' airport dispute (The Edition, 9 January 2019)
https://edition.mv/news/14345

[2] EPA rejects land reclamation request for Maafaru Airport expansion (The Edition, 29 December 2019)
https://edition.mv/news/14205

CALL FOR EXPRESSION OF INTEREST (EOI) FOR THE DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATION OF A DOMESTIC AIRPORT (Gazette of the Maldivian Government, 28 March 2019)
http://www.gazette.gov.mv/iulaan/print/41242

[6] Maafaru Airport Ecocide (27 Feb 2020)
https://savemaldives.net/maafaru-airport-ecocide/

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Save Maldives campaign
Save Maldives Twitter handle: @SaveMaldivesMV Save Maldives Campaign website : https://savemaldives.net/ press articles : https://savemaldives.net/press/

[7] Save Maldives campaign
Save Maldives Twitter handle: @SaveMaldivesMV Save Maldives Campaign website : https://savemaldives.net/ press articles : https://savemaldives.net/press/

Other documents

(EIA Addendum 2019) Second Addendum to the EIA for the proposed Airport Development Project at Maafaru Island, Noonu Atoll Part 1: http://files.epa.gov.mv/file/1493

Part 2: http://files.epa.gov.mv/file/1492

Part 3: http://files.epa.gov.mv/file/1491

Part 4: http://files.epa.gov.mv/file/1490
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/4945/Maafaru_Airport_EIA_Second_Addendum.pdf

Notice for Cancellation of EOI (Ministry of Transport and Communication, 24 March 2013) Page 30 of the Gazette document.
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/4945/gazette-42-50.pdf

Call for EOI (Ministry of Transport and Communication, Gazette of the Maldivian Government, 30 January 2013) Page 24 of the Gazette document.
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/4945/gazette-42-19.pdf

Maafaru Island Airport Project EIA (EPA, 2014)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/4945/Maafaru_Island_Airport_Project_EIA_2014.pdf

Maafaru Airport Expansion Approval DS (EPA, 2017)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/4945/N._maafaru_airport_DS-Approval_2017.pdf

Maafaru Airport Expansion Rejection DS (EPA, 2019)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/4945/N._Maafaru_Airport-Expansion-Rejection-EPA_Decision-Dec2019.pdf

Meta information

Contributor:Hussain Shaihaan Abdulla, SaveMaldives, [email protected]
Last update18/05/2020

Images

 

source: https://savemaldives.net/maafaru-airport-ecocide/

Google maps Feb 2020