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EPA orders temporary halt on dredging and reclamation

Posted on May 13, 2024

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued an order to temporarily ban all ongoing dredging and reclamation projects due to excessive coral bleaching in the country.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch (CRW) – an organisation which remotely monitors conditions that can cause bleaching, disease, and death of corals – reported that Maldives is currently at an Alert Level 1, meaning that the country’s reefs are at risk of reef-wide coral bleaching.

Level 2 would indicate that there is a risk of mortality of heat-sensitive corals.

Recognising that Maldives is now undergoing a mass coral bleaching event, EPA announced that as a mitigating measure, all major coastal development activities that would further stress coral reef ecosystems are to be suspended with immediate effect.

“The bleaching window for the Maldives in 2024 is projected to be from March until the end of June, peaking early May until early June,” EPA’s statement read, detailing the necessary steps to be taken during this time. These include:

– Suspension of all coastal development activities directly or indirectly impacting coral reef ecosystems as stated under EIA permits and Dredging and Reclamation permits.

– Suspend or avoid all major coastal development activities conducted with heavy machinery, including but not limited to dredging, reclamation, beach nourishment, sand pumping, installation of pipelines and cables on the reef.

– Adjust the work schedules for all current coastal zone development projects and new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) applications to carry out the above stated activities only after June 2024.

Through minimising these cumulative stressors, management actions would help reefs to cope with, or recover from coral bleaching events and build resilience against future disturbances related to climate change, EPA also said in conclusion.

Maldives first identified a coral bleaching phenomenon in the country’s reefs in 1998 and it has since been reported on and off from time to time. However, the biggest coral bleaching event took place as recent as 2016.


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