Environment Ministry has compiled a new regulation on making islands greener and protecting and managing coconut palms and trees in Maldives.
The new regulation, published on the Government Gazette on Saturday, is set to take effect in July.
According to the Environment Ministry, the purpose of the new regulation is to increase and protect the greenery in islands, and protecting and maintaining old trees in Maldives, as well managing the cutting down, uprooting and transportation of trees in accordance with the principles of decentralization.
Under the new regulation, cutting down or uprooting trees in public locations in any island will require approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and must be witnessed by a local council official.
The regulation empowers councils to approve cutting down trees for firewood. However, all such permits must be added to a register, which must be shared with the EPA on an annual basis. Cutting down trees of a particular height is prohibited, even if for firewood.
Trees in uninhabited islands and islands leased for socio-economic purposes can cut in the presence of the legitimate lease holder of the island and an atoll council official, but such permits may only be issued if absolutely necessary.
The regulation permits for trees to be cut if the roots cause damage to neighboring property.
The regulation prohibits five types of trees from being cut down; trees on the beach, trees located 20 meters inland from the beach, all trees in protected islands, and trees in protected areas and surrounding 20 meters.
Cutting down endangered trees is also prohibited.
All trees older than 50 years must be protected. The responsibility of the trees’ upkeep falls on local councils.
Violation of the regulation will be met with heavy fines. As such, conducting an activity that requires permission under the regulation with the necessary permits is punishable with a MVR 50,000 fine – if it’s the first violation, a MVR 100,000 if it’s the second violation, and a MVR 150,000 fine if it’s the third violation.
Removing trees with sand or filling holes dug to uproot trees with sea sand is punishable with a MVR 15,000 fine if it’s the first violation, a MVR 50,000 fine if it’s the second violation, and a MVR 100,000 fine if it’s the third violation.
Failure to submit information required under the regulation is punishable with a MVR 5,000 fine if it’s the first violation, a MVR 10,000 fine if it’s the second violation, and a MVR 15,000 fine if it’s the third violation.
Accepting trees that are cut or uprooted illegally is punishable with a MVR 50,000 fine if it’s the first violation, a MVR 100,000 fine if it’s the second violation, and a MVR 150,000 fine if it’s the third violation.
Once the new regulation comes into effect, the current regulations, published in 2006 and 2007, will be void.
The new regulation comes amid concern over resorts taking trees from islands for landscaping.