EPA to begin restoration of Rasfari reef

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has commenced preparations to restore the Rasfari reef following damages caused by the ship that ran aground near Rasfari, Kaafu Atoll, on August 19, 2021.

The cargo ship, MV Navios Amaryllis, was fined USD 10 million for the damages it caused to the Rasfari reef, after running aground last year. The ship owner has paid the fine, which includes the USD 6.5 million fine initially imposed by EPA and an additional amount required for the recovery of the reef. The fine was deposited to the public bank account of Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA). The Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology stated this is the largest fine collected under the Environmental Protection Act.

Speaking to PSM News, Director General of EPA Ibrahim Naeem said that preparations are underway to use a certain percentage of the fine to restore the reef, noting the agency is now procuring the equipment and resources needed to transfer and plant corals to repopulate the damaged area. He noted that this would be the first time that a fine is being used to restore a damaged environment.

Speaking further, Director General Naeem noted that the restoration work is laborious and would require 10 years to complete. He added that the extent of the damage requires drilling and that the government has established a restoration trust fund for the work. He noted the restoration of Rasfari reef will be conducted with assistance from various state institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The cargo ship, MV Navios Amaryllis, ran aground near Rasfari on August 19, 2021, while travelling from Tuticorin, India, to a port in South Africa. Following an investigation into the incident, EPA and other local authorities revealed the ship ran aground after its engine was shut off due to overheating. Authorities stated the captain of the ship had not taken the necessary action to save the reef of Rasfari after the grounding, and had not informed the relevant authorities about the incident. As such, authorities revealed the incident was reported by the public, rather than the ship itself.

Rasfari is a popular diving spot for tourists due to its natural beauty and was declared a protected area in 1995. EPA stated that, although the actual damages caused to the reef are worth above USD57 million, the law only allows a maximum fine of USD 6.5 million.