The Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the High Court‘s interim order which had suspended the reclamation work at Gulhifalhu. Attorney General (AG) Ahmed Usham said on Wednesday that the state would incur millions in losses every day the project was on hold.

“The Gulhifalhu project is worth billions of Rufiyaa. About 80 percent of the dredging of the Gulhifalhu has already been completed. Every day the work is stopped, the state will lose millions of Rufiyaa,” Usham said.

The AG’s statement came after the High Court, on Wednesday, ordered a stay on the dredging at Gulhifalhu until a decision is made in an ongoing civil case filed by environmental activist Humaida Abdul Gafoor last year, alleging that the dredging is being carried out in an environmentally detrimental manner. Subsequently, the state lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court seeking to quash the High Court order.

A three-judge bench at the apex court, presided over by Justice Ali Rasheed Hussain and also including Justices Hussain Mubarak and Azmiralda Zahir, issued a unanimous order on Thursday directing the state to disregard the High Court order at present.

On Wednesday, former President Mohamed Nasheed, who is currently the Secretary General of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, welcomed the decision by the High Court to halt the dredging project.

“Maldives High Court has issued a temporary injunction to stop dredging work near Gulhee Falhu [Gulhifalhu] over environmental concerns. This is a welcome precedent. Dredging can be catastrophic for nearby coral reef ecosystem,” the former President posted on social media.

Akram Kamaluddin, who had been in charge of the project during the Ibrahim Mohamed Solih administration, had confirmed that the work, if delayed or stopped, would incur US$300,000 for each day the stoppage was in effect. The state should intervene if such a project is stopped Kamaluddin said, accusing the administration of influencing the case.

“This is because of [the current administration’s] incompetence. If a loss is being incurred by the government, it cannot be stopped. But it must be proven that it is harmful to the state. Both parties must agree. You can’t just stop [the work] overnight. The courts did that under Muizzu’s influence,” Kamaluddin had said, blaming the Mohamed Muizzu administration while criticising the High Court’s stay order.

The Civil Court had earlier ruled that dredging could continue; a ruling that had been overturned by a High Court decision ordering the suspension of the work which, now, the Supreme Court has reversed in line with the earlier Civil Court ruling.

The project to reclaim 65 hectares of land was awarded, without undergoing a bidding process, to Royal Boskalis and Van Oord from the Netherlands on 17 October 2019 — the project parameters have later been revised by the current administration to add another 85 hectares as well as another 150 hectares in a second phase.