The Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture has announced a temporary halt on leasing uninhabited islands in the Maldives. The Ministry is responsible for reviewing and approving applications for island leases, but the current pause has been implemented to facilitate amendments to the island-leasing regulations. In November 2022, the Parliament approved the amendment bill to the Regulation on Uninhabited Islands, which proposes significant changes to the existing rules.
The amendment bill, passed with 53 votes in favour, aims to reconcile the current island-leasing regulations with the Decentralisation Act. The proposed changes will include amendments to 13 articles, allowing local councils to lease and collect revenue from the uninhabited islands under their jurisdiction. Furthermore, Article 11 will be amended to require authorities to consult with the atoll council before leasing any uninhabited island within their jurisdiction.
Out of the 774 uninhabited islands in the Maldives, most are leased for tourism businesses, including resort development, while others are used for agriculture and industrial purposes. The temporary pause on leasing will allow the government to implement the proposed amendments to the regulations and ensure more effective management of uninhabited islands in the Maldives.