|Abstract: ||The present EIA addresses part of the new development at the Four Seasons at Kuda Huraa, mostly concerning the structural components, including access jetties and changes to the front and back of the house.
The proposed investments aim to improve the standing of Four Seasons at Kuda Huraa, with more practical and spacious amenities.
The Singapore based company HPL operates 6 resorts in Maldives including Kuda Huraa, and Four Seasons manages it. HPL has refurbished Kuda Huraa several times, particularly after the December 2004 tsunami. The proponent commits to undertaking the works described here and to implement the proposed mitigation measures.
HPL contracted Seamarc Pvt. Ltd. to carry out the environmental survey and impact assessment. Seamarc, HPL and Four Seasons have been working together for 10 years.
The proposed developments concern different areas of the resort, particularly two distinct project areas; one near the service channel and one near the water bungalows. Large sediment plumes are not anticipated, as the operations are limited to the use of an excavator to place the footed piles.
The project has 3 main components; Front of the house refurbishment, addition of pools in some of the water villas and back of the house refurbishment.
Modifications to the front of the house involves moving the lobby to a new building at the base of the existing jetty, moving the dive centre to the area that is currently the sunset bar and demolishing the existing dive centre to empty the footprint of the new reception building. Some sediment will be dug out to enable boat movement, where 20m from each side will be deepened.
Ten water villas will be improved by adding swimming pools, which will be built on a slab and four supporting piles.
At the back of the house area, three existing buildings are to be taken down, one existing building to be relocated and two main ones built. One is for staff accommodation, mess area and recreation area.
A main contractor will be awarded the project, and it may or may not be sub- contracted to different groups.
One excavator, barges, concrete mixers and concrete vibrators, and carpentry machinery will be used on site.
The present development follows the legislation, plans, policies, guidelines and international conventions outlined by the Environmental Protection and Preservation Act (EPPA) of the Maldives (EPPA; Law no. 4/ 93) which gives extensive power to Ministry of Housing and Environment (MHE).
Under article 5 (a) of the EPPA, an environmental impact assessment has to be submitted by the developer of the project. The process is coordinated by the Environmental Protection Agency of the MHE with consultation of other relevant agencies. It is identified whether an Initial Environmental Examination of a full Environmental Impact assessment is needed, followed by a scoping meeting. Baseline surveys carried out and a report submitted. Finally, a decision statement is issued by the Ministry, with approval, rejection or request for more information.
Article 15 (a) and (b) of the Tourism Act directly applies to the current development and its regulations are addressed in the current project, to ensure preservation of the natural beauty of the island. This addresses issues such as felling of trees, construction of buildings and garbage disposal. There are also Circulars issued by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture that are followed in the present project.
The Maldives Third Tourism Master Plan (TTMP) also recommends strategies focusing on issues regarding tourism development.
Under the Fisheries Regulation of the Maldives (Article 1 (d)), it is an offence to carry out any fishing activity on the house reef or the lagoon of a tourist resort without prior approval.
Under Article 7 (c) of the Regulation on Sand and Coral Mining, it is an offence to mine sand or coral from the beach, lagoon or reef of any island leased for the purpose of building a tourist resort. However, sand mining is allowed for beach replenishment projects, from the resorts immediate lagoon.
International conventions are followed, including; United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
There are many stakeholders that can affect and be affected by the development projects. The project proponent has a duty to conserve the environment and the environmental consultants play a major role in informed decision making and communication of information. The MHE and EPA are responsible to implement the EIA process.
Human activities have been a cause for major modifications around the island, causing environmental degradation, especially in the channel area where garbage, construction waste and effluents have led to a bloom of seagrass.
Kuda Huraa has a reef system of over 4km and is exposed to the oceanic swell as it is configured southwest-northeast and is on the western side of the atoll. Currents from the east to the lee side transport sediments from the reef crest to the atoll side.
Bathymetry analyses show that the area is not deep enough for the dive dhoani to dock, and thus must be dredged, as they need at least 7 feet of water. Thus the area needs to be dredged.
The marine environment survey encompasses three main areas; the western reef where the sediment plume is likely to drift, close to the sewerage outlet, the reef flat, near the water bungalows and the service channel area. A control was done on the lee side of the reef crest.
Kuda Huraa reef has been recovering well post 1998. The western reef had a high coral cover for both transects and high diversity. The reef flat near the water villas has strong currents inducing sedimentation and is not favorable for coral growth. The service area channel and a representative transect taken under the swimming pool footprint has loose substrate and very low coral cover. The reef crest on the lee side displayed the highest coral cover, though species are limited.
Seawater samples were collected from the areas of proposed works and chemical tests conducted using the Hach method. Climate data was obtained from the Department of Meteorology stations at airports. Data from NASA Scatterometer was used to construct wind roses. Satellite and aerial photos and field observations were used to assess the wave regime around the island.
A survey of the area was carried out using a total station and prism, where levels were recorded and remarks on substrate types were taken for further analysis. Analysis was made using geo-analytical software Idrisi, Microsoft Excel and AutoCAD.
For the marine environment survey, photographic transects were carried out to assess the benthic cover of the six sites. Pictures were analysed using CPCe software, attributing benthic data for a quantitative and qualitative survey.
Impacts to the environment are divided into two. Impacts during construction- physical and indirect impacts, including turbidity plumes, predicted using survey results and past experiences. Impacts during operations- mostly linked to shore line and coastal dynamics of the island. Limitations in impact prediction are possible.
Significant impacts assessed include: disturbance of sea bed, Alteration to water flow and sediment transport, loss and creation of habitats, sedimentation due to sediment plume, noise smell and other disturbances to habitat, greenhouse gas emissions and increased aesthetic and structural stability.
The no-project scenario will result in the degradation of the resort in the competitive tourism market of Maldives. Operations will remain impractical and guests and staff satisfaction will erode.
Alternative solutions include making the dive centre jetty longer, shorter or larger, although these ideas were rejected due to impracticalness. Plunge pools could be made in all the water villas, but this was also rejected due to time consumption.
Mitigation measures for plume creation and sedimentation are to conduct the works during the southwest monsoon, so the sediment transport is towards the east, where substrate consists of a sandy slope.
Monitoring to determine the efficiency of the mitigation measures and environmental impact monitoring will be carried out under the supervision of environmental consultants.|