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The Confrontation – Amir Vs. Zahir

Chairman of ECOCARE Maldives Mr. Mohamed Zahir has met with Mr. Amir Mansoor, an individual who’s been on the endeavor of introducing a dolphin park at a lagoon in the Maldives. This is their conversation.

  1. The meeting was held at an office located at Lily Company’s owner Malla Nasir’s building on January 1, 2012 from 22:30 to 23:54.

  2. The persons who took part in the meeting are Mohamed Zahir and Amir Mansoor.

  3. This meeting was arranged when Amir Mansoor contacted Mohamed Zahir over the phone in the afternoon of January 1, 2012 and requested for such a meeting.

Important discussions of the meeting!

  1. Amir Mansoor presented drawings of the lagoon at which he is planning to open the dolphin park and provided information of the activities planned to be hosted there. Mansoor said apart from exhibiting dolphins, some parts of the lagoon are designed to host water sports and other sports such as dart and table tennis. According to Mansoor, making arrangements for such activities is a huge investment and would be impossible to sustain without financial returns. Therefore he plans especially to target on the tourists visiting the Maldives.

  2. Mansoor said the dolphins to be exhibited at the lagoon are from a dolphinarium located in the Caribbean. They are second generation breed dolphins being cared for and trained there. Once the dolphins are brought to the lagoon being developed near Male’, arrangements will be made for both locals and tourists to visit them for a fee. Apart from dolphin shows, there will be programs that would allow the guests to swim and dive with the dolphins.

  3. According to Mansoor the dolphins are to be brought into the Maldives in accordance with the regulations of CITIES. And Mansoor also noted that the Maldives is not a member of CITIES.

  4. Mansoor said he has had discussions with the President of the Maldives Mr. Mohamed Nasheed sometime back regarding this venture; he is planning to introduce to the Maldives and said that this venture has the support from the Maldivian government.

  5. After the work had begun and commenced to this level, even after we had attained the go ahead from the cabinet, the people who are standing against this venture are trying to stop this from happening in the Maldives, said Mansoor. According to Mansoor, while people are speaking against the venture, among them are persons such as Koli Mohamed Manik.  Mansoor raised the questions “how many resorts from the company Universal has had land reclaimed, lagoons dug up and sea walls built?” among other such questions. He questioned who among the people speaking against this venture were concerned about the environment and claimed that none of them were.

  6. Even when such activities are negatively impacting the Maldivian environment, nothing is done to stop such activities and noted that what these people say regarding his venture are totally untrue and motivated by financial benefits. In addition, Mansoor pointed out that even if we take a look at Zahir, he too has cats living at his place!

  7. Furthermore, Mansoor said that he had met and discussed this issue with Ibrahim Naeem from the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA and noted that he too could not give an answer to Mansoors’s questions. The answers received were all about laws, regulations and the need to clarify legal issues and were unsubstantial to his endeavor.

  8. During the past Mansoor had installed numerous mooring buoys at various dive spots in the Maldives with the purpose of reducing the damage caused onto the reefs by anchors. He noted that he does not know what has happened to these buoys now and stated that this has lead him to once again question who cares about the environment.  He raised the question “what happened to the whale sharks that were previously found near Maamigili after the land reclamation?” According to Mansoor, as a person who regularly dives and observes at this location, he questioned who spoke against this land reclamation. He also stated that at present whale sharks are no longer found around this area.

  9. Mansoor raised the question as to whether there was a resort in the Maldives nowadays who has not got rooms built in the ocean with it’s pillars being rooted into the reef. He also said that if to develop a high-end, high-quality resort, these ocean rooms have to be built and asked if so what are they saying about the environment.

  10. While the situation is like this, so many people are standing up with untrue statements against Amir Mansoor building a dolphin park because these people are led by a white foreigner and he is arranging his “bread and butter” by paying people said Mansoor. He also accused Ecocare saying that they too were standing up against his venture because they too received funds and payments.

  11. Mansoor said it was Mark Berman who aided Ecocare to work against his venture and also said that Mark Berman has a notion that since Earth Island Institute gives out Dolphin Free labels to Maldivian fish exporters, he can stop this dolphin venture too.  If he manages to get many people on his side and stop this, he would be able to tell his tale of stopping it in the Maldives too while he is at various other countries of the world said Mansoor. With disheartenment Mansoor stated that this is how he manages to save his “bread and butter”.

  12. Mansoor raised the question as to how many countries in the world has such dolphin parks and how many of them were Berman actually able to halt?

  13. Mansoor said that he had previously on numerous occasions communicated with Berman via email under the pretense of an American identity and the resulting communications ended with Berman not being able to say anything solid. Mansoor said that Berman could not answer a single one of his questions and later Berman halted the communications suspecting that Mansoor was a person from the Maldivian Fisheries.

  14. After Mansoor expressed his concerns this is what I (Mohamed Zahir) told him. Ecocare has not received any huge funds from an individual or party for this campaign and assured Mansoor that such a financial promise was never made.

  15. I told him that when land was reclaimed, resorts were expanded, etc. in the Maldives, at every major such event; we had stood up to it at governmental, organizational and individual level. And also told him that I had spoken against the Reethi Rah issue, land reclamation at Hulhumale’, and importing impure oil to run engines in the Maldives. But they did it without listening to us didn’t they? I asked Mansoor. However, our efforts will be proven to tomorrow’s generations by historical records and they would not have the opportunity to blame us.

  16. I said that even though we are speaking against this venture, I believe it would eventually happen if it’s got the backing of the government. And I also told him that we do not doubt that his venture would be achievable if Mansoor continues saying that he would do it no matter what and that he’s got the funds to do it and persists with the venture without giving up. Money and influence can make anything possible I told him.

  17. However if the present day environmentalists and our selves believe something as not appropriate to be carried out in the Maldives, we will publicly stand up against it, exposing all the reasons as to why we believe so. We do this because we do not want the younger generations of our country to accuse and place the blame on us for negligence.

  18. We are standing up against the dolphin park focusing mostly not on the scientific disadvantages but rather, disadvantages that are perceived by the human mind. If we include the scientific findings, the points on our list would be far numerous.

  19. When we take a look at the history and culture of the Maldives, such a venture has never been carried out in the Maldives. And also it does not suit the Maldivian culture.

  20. The Maldivian Tourism industry is functioning without such dolphin parks. Rather the Maldives has been marketed as a destination where tourists can enjoy numerous types of free-living whales, sharks, turtles and dolphins at the pristine beaches, beautiful coral gardens and vast open seas. And since the name “Maldives” has attained a high status among tourist destinations world wide as a destination that has been established without such dolphin parks, we see it as unnecessary.

  21. As the Maldives is being advertised as “always natural” to the world market, having such parks with captivated animals where people can take rides on the backs of dolphins would be seen as inconsistent with how the Maldives is marketed to the tourists arriving in the country.

  22. The dolphins that are to be brought into the Maldives (from the Caribbean) are marine life from a foreign environment. While both the locals and the tourists take interest in seeing the dolphins that dance freely in the Maldivian seas, bringing in alien species such as Atlantic Bottle Nose dolphins and keeping them captivated in a lagoon might lead to diseases and might raise concern over other marine creatures and dolphins that naturally inhabit the nearby areas being contaminated by it.

  23. It is known for a fact that these dolphins being brought to the Maldives come from elder generations of dolphins captured by pirates from various seas of the world. Buying them at expensive prices definitively lead us to believe that Maldivians are motivating the pirates to expand their market into the country and funding for their robberies.

  24. The poachers that steal dolphins, whales and other marine life from the oceans gain assurance that their actions have the support of some Maldivian entrepreneurs and may attempt to expand the market in the Maldives. This raises the dangerous possibility for the dolphins naturally living in the Maldives being captured and transported somewhere else.

  25. Maldives is known to be a nation that puts in an immense effort to protect the environment, the Maldivian government has been voicing out environmental issues at various corners of the earth and the nation has already signed important conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity. Therefore if the actions and words of some individuals of the nation don’t match up, the loss and disadvantages the nation would face in this arena.

  26. If permission is granted for one party to open a dolphin lagoon in the Maldives, or if a party opens such a lagoon in the Maldives, permits have to be given out to various other parties wanting to conduct the same business resulting in more parties being interested in such ventures.

  27. As the Maldivians have long been creative people, having such a lagoon set up might result in dolphins being captured and being kept at lagoons at various other parts of the country.

  28. If a dolphin lagoon is set up by some people today, another group of people might try to set up circuses where they bring elephants tomorrow and this would lead to difficulties when trying to stop such activities.

  29. Some people may get interested in building a zoo on a Maldivian island tomorrow.

  30. While they say that this would benefit the Maldivian tourism industry, it is known for a fact that this would only cause losses for the resorts in this country. (Even if the tourists who arrive with the smallest of budgets visits this dolphin lagoon for a day, this would mean that that tourist would not spend any money on the resort’s bar, shop, snorkeling, diving, for food or any other things.)

  31. While it is being said that at the dolphin lagoon, school children will be given the opportunity to conduct various research on dolphins, it is known that for research it is the wild living dolphins that are needed and such an opportunity would not be available at the lagoon.

  32. Breeding dolphins and trafficking dolphins from country to country might negatively impact the Maldivian fishing industry.

  33. The laws being implemented by the Maldivian Fisheries ministry and the Maldivian Environment ministry clearly state that dolphins are protected in this country by law.

At the meeting between Mansoor, and myself one of the topics of conversation was a letter from the Department of National Planning sent to Mansoor on 27 November 2011 containing a set of conditions for releasing the lagoon to him.  Mansoor shared the letter with me. Below is the letter (translated) without omission or alteration.  The letter consists of two points.

“1. Under the guideline published on the Maldivian gazette on 22 September 2011 “Procedure for tourism related proposals”, the Maldivian government has decided that the lagoon may be leased to you for 12 years. Under this guideline, having the sizes of the locations proposed for such tourism related ventures considered, development projects are required to be implemented and completed. According to the size of the lagoon proposed by you, under the guideline you are required to implement a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) worth 7,000,000 USD within the project.  Therefore a development project must be carried out that would meet the amount stated by the Maldivian government.

2. The CSR component of this project has been decided to be the development of roads on an island or islands decided by the Maldivian government.

Therefore, if you agree to go forward with the project in accordance with the requirements stated, please inform this department by 16:00 on 20 December 2011.”

Mansoor said that the guideline referred to in the letter applies to tourist resorts, yacht marinas and other such ventures and claims that funds do not need to be spent according to it. He said that he is conducting discussions with the government on this issue and stated that this project can be carried out without making those payments.

  1. Even now, when the dolphins are kept at a foreign location, their food and other expenses are being paid by him, said Mansoor and stated that this project will be implemented in the Maldives by all means. He furthermore stated that not a single party has presented him with a solid reason for not going through with his plan or the dangers it might cause people. He added that if such a reason were presented with solidity, he would halt his project.

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