CASE TIMELINE
Humaida A Ghafoor v. Government of Maldives
Civil litigation to stop the Gulhifalhu Port Development Project, Maldives

Start 🔽 02 September 2021

08 December 2022

• As yesterday’s (7 December 2022) hearing was cancelled, we rang the court today to clarify when the next hearing will be scheduled and learned that the next hearing is likely to be scheduled for 8 January 2022. The main reason for this further one month delay is because the court will be in recess from 18-29 December 2022.
• There are notable concerns about the continuing delays in scheduling and progress of the case. Some of these concerns were detailed in the update provided on 29 August 2022, in this timeline below.

• At the hearing held on 21 November 2022, the court gave assurances there will be no scheduling delays to the case by the court.
• It is with this hope we went to the Civil Court today – 7 December 2022 for the hearing scheduled for 10.45 hrs, only to be told that it was cancelled.
• According to the court, the reason for cancelling today’s hearing is because the assigned State Attorney was on holiday. We find it difficult to accept this as an appropriate reason for a last-minute cancellation of a court hearing, because the State is not an entity that can stop work suddenly by taking holidays, and the relevant State institution, the Attorney General’s Office should not be organising its official work in ways that allow for last minute holidays that cancel court hearings. It is concerning that this kind of excuse is presented to parties to a case at the point of arriving at the court for the hearing, following the receipt of a summons, scheduling of a hearing and preparation for it. In addition, considering that this case has now been dragging for over a year, we shared all these concerns with the court officer.
• We note this is not the first time a scheduled hearing has been cancelled at the last minute due to the State’s lack of preparation (that day, 22 March 2022, the hearing was cancelled last minute on the request of the State for an extension – notably, this was an instance where our request for an extension was refused – the update for 22 March is detailed in the timeline below).

07 December 2022
21 November 2022
Humay and Hasan - Miveshi environmental litigation Maldives

Second Court Hearing

• 6 months and 10 days after the first court hearing on 10 May 2022, the second hearing was held at 11.00am at the Civil Court today (21 Nov. 2022).
• Today’s hearing which was scheduled for 11.00am, began at 11.35am and ended at 11.40am.
• The hearing was conducted to make note that this case has now been transferred to a different administrative section of the court.
• Due to the fact that to date, there has been no hearing conducted to discuss the evidence submitted by both parties, a hearing was scheduled for 7 December 2022 for that purpose.
• Following concern raised by the claimant about additional delays, court gave assurance that no delays would result due to lapses in scheduling.

Miveshi aerial sand dredging Boskalis Maldives

More than 3 months since the 10 May 2022 hearing, there have been no case progress status updates from the Court. In addition, it is a concern that no further information has been available despite our efforts to obtain an update.
However, the Government has been taking steps to move ahead with the Gulhifalhu project over the past several weeks. Among those, the following observations are notable, which also raise certain concerns.

1 – On 16 June 2022, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Planning, Housing & Infrastructure representing the Government announced the signing of a loan agreement with 3 European banks to secure Euro 101 million (1.6 billion Rufiya) to finance the second phase of the Gulhifalhu reclamation project.
According to available information, the sum of USD 120 million (1.8 billion Rufiya) will be spent solely on the reclamation phase of the Gulhifalhu project.
This is a major expense of State debt, considering the Covid pandemic situation at a time when the State is struggling to meet debt repayments with the Maldives being in a state of economic uncertainty. It is evident from the advice given by an international financial institution that this is not the most desirable debt expenditure.
Those studying and researching the impacts of the Covid pandemic in the Maldives and the international financial institution, the IMF have been raising concerns repeatedly about the increased debt spending in Maldives.   

2 – The Gulhifalhu reclamation project EIA estimated sand use requirements of the project to be 6 (six) million cubic metres for the first phase and 14 (fourteen) million cubic metres for the second phase, a total of 20 (twenty) million cubic metres of sand.
However, it is notable from the Gulhifalhu project website that the project’s sand use has now gone up by 22.5%. It is notable that the project has used 6.5 (six point five) million cubic metres of sand during the first phase and will use 18 (eighteen) million cubic metres of sand during the second phase. This is a total expense of 24.5 million cubic metres of sand.
A key concern is that reclaiming Gulhifalhu will use 3 times more sand than would be required to do the same project elsewhere. This is not a responsible use of the sand resources of the Maldives.
In addition, as the project works and expense increases, there is no information that an EIA had been done to assess consequent environmental impacts.

3 – Available information from the project website shows that as part of the continuation of the project, a collaborative initiative between some resorts, the reclamation contractor Boskalis and the government has been actively removing thousands of live coral colonies and moving them to Sonevafushi resort at Baa Atoll Kufunadhoo island during this year. According to the project website, in April 2022, 15,000 (fifteen thousand) coral colonies were taken to Sonevafushi alone. In addition, starting in 2020 to date, 34,500 (thirty four thousand five hundred) coral colonies have been taken [from Gulhifalhu] to 3 resorts. These include Kaafu Atoll Kuda Huraa resort, Sheraton Full Moon resort and Baa Atoll Sonevafushi resort.
Removing corals from one location to another leads to significant coral losses. In addition, there is no information that any professional studies exist in the Maldives to date that shows moving corals from one ecosystem to another is a way to save a reef.
In addition, it is our view that this kind of activity is being conducted to create a perception that a living Maldivian reef and the hundreds of different marine life within that ecosystem which support its sustainability can actually be relocated from one location to another through such activities. This is grave and willful misleading done for the purpose of business.
Furthermore, the removal of coral and their transfer to another location would destroy a reef that has achieved naturally sustainable balance over thousands of years. While it is clear that such an ecosystem cannot be moved or taken to another location, it is our view that this activity is a deliberate attempt to destroy the Gulhifalhu reef. It is clearly stated in the project EIA that the project  will inflict irreversible and significant loss and damage to the Gulhifalhu reef.

As August 2022 comes to a close, the information we have is that there have been changes made to the judges positions at the Civil Court and the judge adjudicating this case has retired from his position. As a result, it is anticipated that there is likely to be more delays to the progress of the case.

Note : several hyperlinks used in these updates are content in the Maldivian language Dhivehi from news reports and other documentation from official and other sources.

29 August 2022
10 May 2022
Miveshi first court hearing (May 2022)

First Court Hearing

The hearing scheduled for 22 March 2022 was cancelled on that day and rescheduled to 10 May and took place at 11.15hrs at the Civil Court today.
The main purpose of today’s hearing was for both parties to disclose evidential testimonies and to submit information about witnesses to the Court.
The hearing began at 11.35hrs and continued until 12.25hrs.
At today’s hearing, both parties provided an introduction about the subject matter relevant to the case, and in addition shared brief explanations to the Court relevant to some of the points submitted in the case.
Our request to submit additional documents was accepted and that opportunity was given by the Court at this hearing.
It is expected that the next hearing will be scheduled after additional documents have been submitted.

With reference to the present case submitted to Court, we were informed last week that the Court had scheduled a hearing at 11.45hrs on 22 March 2022 regarding presenting witness testimonies. Contrary to what was expected previously, this hearing is about disclosing and discussing the matter of evidential testimonies. Our request for additional time to prepare for this hearing was declined. Therefore, we were ready for today’s hearing. However, about an hour before the hearing, the Court informed us that the hearing had been cancelled. We understand this is because the State had also requested for an extension. It is expected that this hearing will be re-scheduled very soon.

22 March 2022
23 January 2022

As explained below, in the case submitted to Court to stop the reclamation project at Kaafu Atoll Gulhifalhu, our response to the State’s initial statement was submitted on 30 December 2021.  Responding to that, the State submitted its statement on 20 January 2022. As both parties have now shared their statements, it is expected that the next step would be to present witness testimonies in Court.

In the case submitted to the Court to stop the reclamation project at Kaafu Atoll Gulhifalhu, the 3 defendant State institutions submitted their initial statement on 22 November 2021.
Initially, the Court instructed me [as claimant] to respond to that statement by 19 December 2021. However, a request for an extension to respond to the State’s initial statement was made, and allowed by the Court, to 30 December 2021. Therefore, my response to the State’s initial statement was submitted to the Court today.
It is expected that once the State responds to this statement, the Court will give the opportunity to present witness testimonies to the Court.

30 December 2021
13 December 2021

On 22 November 2021, the Civil Court shared the  State’s initial statement responding to the case via email. The State rejects the claims in my submission. We are currently preparing to respond to the State’s initial statement.
With reference to the update of 04 November 2021, efforts were made to obtain clarification about the MTCCs claims that the company had “completed K. Gulhifalhu – Additional Works Reclamation Project” and what processes were followed to undertake this activity. To date, no information has been received following efforts to inquire about this by phone, email and letter to the relevant authority and project proponent, Ministry of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure.
As the Gulhifalhu reclamation project is being undertaken with a contract to Boskalis Westminster, questions arise as to what process was used to contract MTCCs work, and the unavailability of relevant documentation such as the public announcement about the project and   relevant EIA through the regular processes. Furthermore, the relevant State authority (the project proponent, Ministry of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure) has proved unable to provide an answer whether such information is available or otherwise. Responding to my request for clarification, the Ministry of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure has instructed me to seek such information from the Courts as the Gulhifalhu issue is in litigation at the Court. However, considering the information being sought is something that should be publicly available as a matter of normal procedure, the lack of availability of this information and receiving this sort of response is concerning. When information that should be made publicly available by a State institution is not publicly visible and request for clarification is met with an instruction to seek such information from the Court, I believe this is something that would waste the Court’s time.

At the 12 October dispute resolution hearing, both parties were in agreement that the case could not be resolved during that phase and the case was moved to the judicial phase by the Civil Court. Today marks 23 days since then. Inquiries were made to find out when the first hearing would be scheduled. The Civil Court informed that the State was called to submit their statement – and this is scheduled for 02 November 2021. However, the State had requested for additional time to submit their statement. Once the Court decides on a new submission date, we were told that this information would be shared. 
It is our assessment that one possible reason for the State to request such an extension is because of the currently ongoing international gathering at the COP26 where the Maldives is advocating its climate vulnerability status. At such a moment, the government may not wish either national or international attention to be drawn to a case that is seeking to stop environmental damage being inflicted within the country.
In addition, on 01 November 2021, MTCC (State owned enterprise – SoE) announced on Twitter that the company had completed the reclamation of Gulhifalhu.
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According to the Gulhifalhu reclamation EIA, the reclamation works are planned over two phases.
The first phase of the reclamation involving the expense of 6 million cubic metres of sand from North Male’ Atoll was conducted by Boskalis Westminster in 2020.
The second phase of the reclamation estimates using 14 million cubic metres of sand. However, there is no information that this work has been implemented thus far. 
Therefore, if SoE MTCC had been assigned a part of the work contracted to Boskalis Westminster, it is currently unclear how that process was conducted. In addition, the fact that some newspapers had covered the story with a headline saying that MTCC had “completed Gulhifalhu reclamation”, suggests the papers had taken this news from MTCCs tweet. Moreover, without any evidence that Gulhifalhu reclamation had been completed as per the project EIA, the way newspapers had covered the story is likely to mislead and cause much confusion about the actual reality.
In addition, several questions arise from MTCCs tweet : 
1 – Given that the reclamation of Gulhifalhu is contracted to Boskalis, what part of it was contracted to MTCC and through what process?
2 – When was this work assigned to MTCC?
3 – Is there an EIA and a Decision Statement for this work?
On 04 November 2021, my telephone inquiries from the EPA to obtain answers to these questions revealed that there are no additional EIAs made for the project, that EPA has no role in this work, that the proponent of the Gulhifalhu project is the Ministry of National Planning & Infrastructure, that this ministry would both contract and monitor project works, and that the EPA has no information about the work being carried out by MTCC.
This response from the EPA suggests that in these projects, the proponent is given a broad remit to both monitor and conduct the project in any way it chooses without any involvement by the EPA. However, we note that the EPA has the legal mandate to take responsibility for matters of environmental protection.
We also note that information was not made available about the Gulhifalhu project’s status when a request for this information was made earlier to the EPA in June 2021.

04 November 2021
12 October 2021

The third hearing of the dispute resolution phase of the case was scheduled for 11.15hrs and formally began at 11.22hrs via conference call.
When the Court asked the State to present its decision, the State Attorney informed that having studied the case documentation, the State is of the view that the nature of the case did not allow a resolution through the dispute resolution phase. Therefore, the State requested the case to be moved to the judicial phase for resolution.
As this is consistent with the claimant’s position, both parties were in agreement on this, and the claimant requested the Court to expedite the process to the judicial phase.
The first hearing of the dispute resolution phase was held on 23 September 2021 and the last of these hearings was concluded today. This process took 19 days and today’s hearing marks the conclusion of the dispute resolution phase.
The next phase would be the judicial phase. Miveshi will continue to publish brief summaries of the proceedings of the case during this phase.

ގުޅިފަޅު މަޝްރޫއު ހުއްޓުވަން ކުރި ދައުވާ ޝަރީއަތަށް (Mihaaru)
Environmental destruction case against the government regarding Gulhifalhu Project goes to trial (Times Of Addu)
Gulhifalhu mashroou huttuvan hushahelhi massala sharee’athah (dhauru.com)

Although the third hearing of the dispute resolution phase of the case was scheduled for 10.30hrs, contact from the court was delayed. On inquiring from the court about the delay, it was clarified that the State Attorney was delayed in another case.
At 11.20hrs, a court official called to inform that they would proceed with the hearing as soon as possible when they hear from the State Attorney, and to allow a bit more time.
However, as the State Attorney was unable to attend the hearing, the court official called at 11.48hrs to cancel today’s hearing and rescheduled it to 12 October 2021.

10 October 2021
05 October 2021

Humaida Abdulghafoor (Humay) and lawyer Hasan Zaki participated at a public forum called “Haiygadiolhi Club” on the social media platform Clubhouse to provide an introduction of the case to the program’s listeners of the day.
 
An important point raised by the forum’s moderator Aishath Aniya is that the submission of this case to court would be perceived as an “act to obstruct development”. 
Responding to this question, Humay noted that “development” must be measured from multiple angles. A key concern is the failure to consider or assess what kind of public asset is being lost when undertaking a project of this type, which is a serious problem.
The wealth of the Maldives is founded upon its natural blessings. It is important to question and think about whether any development can be achieved by destroying this wealth.
In addition, it is important to question who actually benefits from these projects.
Hasan noted that a civilized society would not accept a culture of environmental destruction to be defined as “development”. 
In connection to this point, Miveshi observes the following :
Gulhifalhu is a deep lagoon. The project will use 3 times more sand than would be needed to reclaim a similar area elsewhere in the Maldives.
Considering this is a vast amount of sand resources sourced at great financial expense, it is notable that the relevant State authorities with the legal mandate to protect the environment have not conducted any studies to find out what issues or negative impacts may result when such large quantities of sand is sourced from one atoll.
While the project may be an important one, its continuation “in any way possible” “in the prevailing situation”, disregarding all the concerns mentioned above is a destructive approach that sits outside the interpretation of “development” in any civilized society.
Gulhifalhu reef hosts a protected site due to the very fact such ecosystems are finite and limited. It is a major issue that the project will be implemented by destroying this ecosystem. 
The project will spend USD 300 million of public debt in the Male’ area where marine protected areas have already been severely degraded and negatively impacted. The fact that the State attempts to justify destroying the few remaining protected marine ecosystems to implement this project at Gulhifalhu for its “proximity” to Male’ is a destructive policy position which amounts to an injustice that violates a number of rights.
From a legal perspective, Article 22 of the Constitution provides that the State must not allow “natural resources” to be wasted, and that such heritage must be preserved and passed on for present and future generations. Furthermore, development projects must reach all regions of the country in an equitable manner and be conducted sustainably. It should not be possible to destroy priceless natural public assets for the financial benefit of a few, in ways that obstruct the fulfilment of every citizen’s right to benefit from these natural ecosystems.
It is nothing but willful misleading to call something “development”, when no comprehensive study is conducted about an activity that puts the Maldivian people into debt.

The second hearing of the dispute resolution phase of the case was scheduled for 10.00hrs and formally began at 10.17hrs via conference call.
It was observed that the State was not able to study the case information during the 10 day time-frame assigned for this purpose on 23 September 2021. Therefore, allowing the State’s request for an extension, a third hearing of this phase was scheduled for Sunday 10 October 2021 by the Court.

04 October 2021
23 September 2021

The first hearing of the dispute resolution phase of the case was scheduled for 13.00hrs and formally began at 13.11hrs via conference call.
The State requested for additional time to study the case and obtain information from relevant State institutions.
The parties agreed to accept a 10 day time-frame to facilitate this.
The Court scheduled the second hearing of the dispute resolution phase to 07 October 2021.
At this hearing, it is expected that a decision would be made whether a resolution can be reached through the dispute resolution phase.

Civil court case against Gulhifalhu port development (RASHU)

Public Info Event

An event was arranged in Male’ to publicly share information about the submission of a case to the Civil Court of the Maldives and the Court’s acceptance of the case. Invitees to the event included journalists, civil society organisations and environmental advocates.
The following persons attended this event :
Najah Masood, Mihaaru News / Ayesha Eyman, Dhauru News / Hussain Arban Fawaz, Adhadhu News / Afrah Ismail, Zero Waste Maldives / Affan Umar Ahmed, Ecocare Maldives / Mariyam Ajfan, Transparency Maldives / Muna Mohamed, Landsea Maldives / Dr Ibrahim Mohamed, Environmental Expert / Adam Abdullah, Environmental Defender / Adam Isham, Save Maldives Campaign / Mohamed Haleem, Save Maldives Campaign / Ahmed Moosa, resident of Kulhudhuffushi
Humaida Abdulghafoor, Claimant/Petitioner
Hasan Zaki, Lawyer/Legal Counsel

ގުޅީފަޅު މަޝްރޫއު ހުއްޓުވުމަށް ސިވިލް ކޯޓުގައި އެދިއްޖެ (Adhadhu)
Thimaavettah gellunvaathy Gulhifalhu … (Mihaaru)
Gulheefalhu mashroou huttuvumah Civil … (Khabaruonline)
ތިމާވެއްޓަށް ގެއްލުންވާތީ ގުޅިފަޅު މަޝްރޫޢު ހުއްޓުވަން ސިވިލް ކޯޓަށް – (Dhen.mv)
Gulhifalhu mashroou huttuvan Civil Court … (Dhauru.com)

22 September 2021
19 September 2021

The Civil Court of Maldives accepts the case to stop the project to develop a port at Kaafu Atoll Gulhifalhu.

Case submitted to the Civil Court of Maldives to stop the project to develop a port at Kaafu Atoll Gulhifalhu.

02 September 2021

CASE TIMELINE
Humaida A Ghafoor v. Government of Maldives
Civil litigation to stop the Gulhifalhu Port Development Project, Maldives

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