Implementation of the NBSAP
The guiding principles of the NBSAP (2002) are: ecological sustainability, individual responsibility for biodiversity conservation, equitable sharing of benefits, accountability and transparency of decision-makers to the public, and community participation. The NBSAP was formulated with wide consultation and extensive stakeholder participation and built on three fundamental goals, 15 objectives, including an objective on implementation, and associated strategies or measures. A comprehensive approach is adopted where biodiversity conservation issues are integrated into all areas of national development, planning, policy and administration.
The Ministry of Environment and Energy is responsible for implementing the NBSAP, with other lead institutions taking responsibility for activities which fall within their mandate. These institutions incorporate the relevant activities into their work programmes. The lead institutions include the Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, Marine Research Center, Ministry of Tourism, Local Councils, Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Education, and local institutions, such as Island Development Committees and Women’s Development Committees and NGOs.
The Maldives has prioritized a review of the NBSAP, with guidance provided by the provisions of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and has completed the consultation process with 20 administrative atolls and all relevant government organizations. Additionally, Maldives has established a technical committee to guide the process of NBSAP review.
Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets
The Maldives has made progress in achieving success in a number of global goals and targets, with 44 protected areas, covering 428,569 hectares of marine area and 273 hectares of land area, currently protected under the Environment Protection and Preservation Act 4/93 (this figure includes marine and terrestrial protected areas).
A list has been established which identifies 387 areas rich in biodiversity as sensitive areas. These include possible fish breeding areas, bird sanctuaries, micro atolls, islands, mangroves and marine areas. In addition, turtles are protected by a ten-year moratorium and certain rare species that are likely to be threatened or endangered are prohibited from being exploited and exported. Harvesting sea turtle eggs is prohibited in ten selected parts of the country where sea turtles are under severe threat; a turtle management plan is in the final stages of development. A whale shark aggregation area (the “Hanifaru”) was declared a marine protected area in 2009 and a management plan has been in effect since 2013, and a ban on shark fishing since 2010.
One key program is the Atoll Environment Conservation (AEC) Project funded by the Global Environment Facility which has supported biodiversity-related projects, especially in Baa Atoll, under which Baa Atoll was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2011.
The National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), developed in 2007, as well as the National Environmental Action Plan III (NEAPIII), developed in 2009, contain plans, policies and strategies to address challenges to biodiversity from climate change.
Regulations and efforts have been made to reduce pollution through waste management measures, roadworthiness requirements, applying ICAO standards for air quality and IMO standards for marine pollution control and biosafety.
Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)
Very little of the country’s biodiversity is currently protected. Policies and action plans regarding the management and integration of protected areas exist in all key national policy documents, such as the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), National Environment Action Plan (NEAP) and National Development Plans (NDPs). Most existing measures and policies on protected areas in the NBSAP are being implemented through the National Development Plan (NDP). The Maldives does not have any specific legislation for protected areas but is currently formulating a new regulation on protected areas.
Protected status has been granted to 42 areas including dive sites, mangroves and some ecologically significant islands, 103 species of birds, 14 marine species and black turtles.
Environmental protection currently accounts for an extremely low share of the budgets of the Government and overseas donors. There is currently a need to create a variety of financing mechanisms, notably between the Ministries of Finance and Treasury, and other relevant implementing agencies. Through the AEC project, Maldives has established a Conservation Fund for Baa Atoll to fund conservation and many other sustainable activities in Baa Atoll. However, funding and resources are still inadequate for long-term conservation of the atoll.
There are increasingly more attempts to raise public awareness of biodiversity issues. In Maldives, biodiversity is taught through the subject “Environmental Science” which is in the curriculum of all primary schools. Additionally, environment-related issues are incorporated into education programs for primary teachers. However, environmental studies, especially biodiversity, is not included in secondary and higher secondary education. Information on biodiversity issues is provided in the media (television, radio) and on the Internet and, more recently, social media has become an effective means of communicating to the public.
Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation
There is currently no coordination system in place which helps monitor and review implementation strategies. It is hoped that regular monitoring and review mechanisms for the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan can be established through a focus on community participation and establishing clear indicators in the new NBSAP.