President of the Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih decided to designate the ‘Maldives Victory’ shipwreck dive site and Kaafu Atoll Kaashidhoo wetland area as protected, upon the recommendation of cabinet.
Presenting a paper on the subject during the virtual cabinet session held yesterday, 9th February 2021, the Minister of Environment revealed that the Kaashidhoo wetland area has special environmental significance, being one of only three islands in the Maldives home to indigenous tortoise population.
Furthermore, the area has the most frequently reported sightings of tortoises from all three sites. The Kaashidhoo wetland area is declared protected with sustainable use for its abundant natural resources and natural habitat of diverse life-forms.
According to a press release by the president’s office, shedding light on the justification of protecting Maldives Victory shipwreck, located southwest of Velana International Airport, the environment Minister noted that the nutrient-rich channel currents transformed the sunken ship into a thriving coral reef; the cargo vessel sank in 1981. The wreck is the most famous and most frequently dived shipwreck in the Maldives.
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According to the President’s Office, with these new additions, under Article 4 of the Environmental Protection and Preservation Act of Maldives (Act No: 4/93), a total of 71 sites in the Maldives have now been declared protected. Likewise, the Administration plans to designate at least one island, one reef and one mangrove in each atoll as a protected area.
Earlier in October 2020, UNESCO declared the Maldives’ southernmost atolls Addu and Fuvahmulah Biosphere Reserves. This declaration was made at 32nd session of the UNESCO International Coordinating Council. Likewise, UNESCO designates new biosphere reserves every year by the MAB programme’s governing body, the International Co-ordinating Council. Before this, Baa Atoll was the only Biosphere Reserve in the Maldives.
Feature image by the President’s Office