EPA needs legal, financial autonomy: Husnu Suood

Supreme Court Justice Husnu Al Suood -- Sun Photo

Supreme Court Justice Husnu al Suood on Wednesday, has said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should operate with legal and financial autonomy.

Suood said this in his opinion on Supreme Court's verdict, which overturned High Court's interim injunction ordering to cease reclamation efforts of K. Gulhifalhu.

In his obiter dictum, Suood highlighted that Maldivian courts are at a handicap owing to lack of scientific research made in the Maldivian context. He argued it was prevalent to conduct and implement a "National Strategical Environmental Assessment" to enforce Article 22 of the Maldives Constitution.

Article 22 of the Constitution ensures environmental protection, while mandating the Maldives state monitor environmental preservation efforts nationwide. 

Suood said the law enforces to conduct research needed to implement national policies, and take measures on environmental impact in developmental projects.

The law also mandates monitoring changes to ecosystems after projects, and publishing the data related to these observations.

"For this, the EPA need to have financial strength and resources, as well as legal enforcement to ensure the agency can operate autonomously," Suood added.

Land reclamation of Gulhifalhu began in 2020. A private party submitted a formal complaint with Civil Court claiming significant environmental damage, seeking an injunction.

The court however, had not issued an injunction for the matter, which was appealed at the High Court. The upper court issued an injunction ordering to cease efforts of the reclamation.

The judges bench of the Supreme Court unanimously held High Court issued the injunction in violation of the precedent set by the top court, and hence, overturned the first appellate court's order.