Maldives planning to convert mangroves forest to an airport

Maldives, one of the most vulnerable to climate change is planning to convert mangrove forests that protected against the 2004 devastating tsunami into an airport; while receiving millions of dollars from climate funds. 

The island of Kulhudhuffushi hosts the 7th largest mangrove in the Maldives. It is home to 8 species of true mangrove plants, 42 associated plant species and supports the entire ecosystem of the island. This white clay mangrove is home to various migratory birds and fishes. In addition, the mangrove ecosystem also provide livelihood activities for over 400 women and their families in the island and is closely linked to the culture and heritage. However, the Government of Maldives is currently in the process of reclaiming the mangrove to build an airport to fulfill a presidential campaign pledge.

The Government promises the airport will bring development to the island by creating jobs and stimulating economic growth.  However, domestic airports in Maldives are an extremely expensive investment with low returns. Given the employment data from other airports in the country, it will create maximum 40‐100 jobs. On the other hand, if money is invested in essential services in the island such as tertiary medical services, higher education, eco tourism and better job opportunities will be created.

Maldives is extremely vulnerable to climate change and mangroves play a key role in protection of coastal ecosystems. They protect coral reefs and reduce the damage from natural disasters such as Tsunamis and tropical storms. Mangroves are also extremely beneficial in reducing atmospheric carbon, which is crucial for protection against climate change.

Maldives receives millions of dollars each year for climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. Just this year, USD 23 million was received by the Government of Maldives from the Green Climate Fund.

It is hypocritical to actively destroy the most critical ecosystems while receiving major climate funds. As the chair of Alliance Of Small Island States (AOSIS) and obligations under international environmental conventions, Maldives must show leadership in taking action against climate change.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) done for the airport project itself states that “the positive impacts might not outweigh the negative impacts associated with the project”. The Government should therefore reconsider the development of the airport by reclaiming the mangrove of Kulhudhuffushi and causing irreversible damage to island ecosystem.

With the aim to garner attention for this issue and to stand against it, a group of campaigners have produced a short video spot. Here, three youth from Kulhudhuffushi, Inasa Umar, Sana Ibrahim and Adam Ahmed raise their voice for protecting the mangrove. The video was edited by Sara Naseem.


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