ECOCARE Maldives, a non-profit environmental organisation, has reiterated its call for the protection and preservation of the unique ecosystem of Keylakunu Island. This comes in response to the government’s announcement to develop the island as an eco-tourism zone.

Keylakunu, nestled in the Haa Dhaalu Atoll, is distinguished by its Avicennia marina forest, a feature unparalleled in any other island ecosystem globally. This unique attribute contributes to the island’s rich biodiversity, underscoring its importance for conservation efforts.

The eco-tourism project, announced by Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim, the Principal Secretary to the President on Public Policy, includes plans to construct floating villas on the lagoon.

“After careful deliberation, the Visitor Economic Council is considering the development of floating accommodations for island visitors, designed to ensure no adverse impacts on the coral reefs,” assured Ibrahim. President Mohamed Muizzu chairs the council.

In response to this development, Maeed Mohamed Zahir, the Director of Advocacy for ECOCARE Maldives, emphasised the ecological significance of Keylakunu. “We want to reiterate our call from 2017 about keeping the island as it is, given its ecological significance.

“The island is the only one in the Maldives that can technically be classified as a wild mangrove forest,” Zahir told Maldives Republic.

The government’s plan also includes the development of an “environmentally friendly” visitor centre to provide historical information about the island. This is not the first time a government has planned to turn Keylakunu into a tourism zone. Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s administration had also planned such a project, which was met with criticism from ECOCARE Maldives.

“The island must be protected and designated as a biosphere reserve to ensure its conservation for generations to come. It is essential that such significant environmental hotspots remain protected by limiting as much human influence as possible. This is certainly a natural heritage site,” stated Zahir.

The previous administration, under the leadership of former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, had also initiated efforts to boost tourism in the northern region, including the inauguration of a project to expand Hanimaadhoo International Airport. Solih also designated Keylakunu Island, along with its reef and lagoon area, as protected areas on 25 December 2018.

Keylakunu’s unique Avicennia marina forest and rich mangrove ecosystem contribute to its biodiversity, making it a vital site for environmental conservation. ECOCARE Maldives, established in 1994, is dedicated to the protection and sustainable development of the environment in the Maldives and actively participates in the global fight against climate change.