In the midst of calls for a temporary halt to all significant coastal development activities, President Mohamed Muizzu’s government is steering the public’s attention towards its environmental conservation efforts.

Thoriq Ibrahim, the Minister of Climate Change, Environment and Energy, recently took to the airwaves to discuss the government’s forthcoming environmental initiatives. Among these, a standout is an ambitious plan to plant five million trees, a significant step towards environmental conservation. The initiative is set to kick off on World Environment Day, observed globally on 5 June, he announced.

This commitment was first made by President Muizzu at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in late 2023. The tree planting programme, according to Minister Ibrahim, will span across the nation, covering all inhabited islands and tourist resorts.

The initial phase of the programme will focus on the planting of four categories of trees: endangered species, fruit-bearing trees, shade trees, and trees used in traditional medicine practices. Ibrahim criticised previous administrations for their lack of sustainable tree plantation programmes and the absence of adequate maintenance for the planted trees. “Previously, these programmes were not monitored. We aim to rectify this with future monitoring,” Ibrahim stated.

The subsequent phase of the programme will introduce an additional 90 species of trees. To ensure its longevity, nurseries will be set up on the outer islands, and a system will be implemented for the public to acquire plants, he said.

Ibrahim also urged local councils and civil society to participate in the government’s tree plantation programme. The government has previously announced that neighbouring countries would contribute trees to the programme.

The launch of the tree plantation programme coincides with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Maldives Marine Research Institute (MMRI) recommending a temporary suspension of all major coastal development activities in the Maldives until 10 June. This recommendation comes in response to projections of an ongoing wave of coral bleaching, expected to last from March to the end of June, with a peak period from early May until early June.