The union of yellowfin tuna fishermen (Bodu Kanneli Masveringe Union – BKMU) has raised the alarm over the destructive impact of dredging on bait fishing near Malé. Their concerns, highlighted in a recent video, focus on the “Filippo Brunelleschi” dredger operating near Ihuru Vabbinfaru, a prime spot for yellowfin tuna bait fishing. Massive land reclamation projects, including the Hulhumalé phase three land reclamation, necessitate dredging for sand in these vital bait fishing areas.

The union’s outcry highlights a broader ecological crisis, mirroring situations like the damaged coral reefs in the Maldives due to similar dredging for artificial islands. This phenomenon is not isolated; global examples, such as the environmental changes in the South China Sea’s Mischief Reef, reflect the far-reaching consequences of such activities.

In the South China Sea, particularly at Mischief Reef, dredging activities led to a substantial increase in backscatter in the water column, indicating changes in the physical and possibly biological properties of the marine environment. These changes could have adverse effects on the local marine ecosystems, including coral reefs and the marine life they support.

The ongoing projects in the Malé region, notably at Ras Malé, Gulhifalhu and Giraavaru, further exemplify the relentless push for land expansion at the cost of marine life. The “Filippo Brunelleschi,” with its vast capacity, underscores the scale of these operations, which require millions of cubic meters of sand, drastically altering marine habitats.

Currently, a Joint Parliamentary Committee is set to examine the government’s Ras Malé project, with a special focus on its environmental impact. A significant focus of this review is the lack of a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project.

Presenting the motion, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Saleem, pointed out that while the plan is to reclaim 1,153 hectares of the 1,280-hectare Fushidhiggaru lagoon, the existing EIA covers only 29 hectares, a mere 2.26% of the total area. 

This discrepancy, according to Saleem, indicates that the project was initiated with special privileges, bypassing laws governing environmental protection.