Coral planting has commenced on the reef at Rasfari Island in the Kaafu Atoll, as part of an effort to restore the damage caused to the marine ecosystem when the bulk carrier MV Navios Amaryllis ran aground on the reef on 18 August 2021. The vessel damaged an area spanning 8,876 square metres, of which coral within 2,882 square metres were completely decimated.

The reef at Rasfari was first listed as a protected region in 1995 under the Environmental Protection and Preservation Act of 1993 and as such the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had fined the carrier owner MVR 154.2 million.

Minister of Environment, Climate Change, and Technology Aminath Shauna, along with EPA Director General Ibrahim Naeem, inaugurated the restoration project on Sunday in the presence of representatives from project partners Dhiraagu, Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), and Landscaping Solutions.

“We allocated US$3.5 million in compensation for the damage to the [Rasfari] reef two years ago to a separate EPA trust fund. That trust fund can be used to restore similar damages to reefs,” she said.

The minister also highlighted that this was the first time that a reef in the Maldives was being restored from environmental fines resulting from the damage.

Initial restoration efforts will see the EPA attach live coral fragments to the affected area to encourage a revival of coral growth in those sections.

The restoration project, which will proceed in phases, is scheduled to continue for five years. During this period, constant monitoring will be conducted, and live coral will be cultured to revive dead or dying sections of the reef.