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Title: Environmental impact assessment shore protection and channel maintenance at Soneva Gili Resort and Spa, Kaafu Atoll, Maldives
Authors: Sandcays
Keywords: Existing environment
Stakeholder consultations
Impacts and mitigation measures
Environmental monitoring
Issue Date: Mar-2011
Citation: Sandcays. (2011). Environmental impact assessment shore protection and channel maintenance at Soneva Gili Resort and Spa, Kaafu Atoll, Maldives. Male': Maldives
Abstract: This report addresses the environmental concerns of the proposed shore protection and channel maintenance at Soneva Gili Resort and Spa located on Lankanfushi in North Malé Atoll. The primary objective of the project is to protect the shoreline of Soneva Gili, especially the western shoreline which is the main tourist attraction and primary area of focus with most of the public areas located on the western side. The project also involves nourishment of the eastern shoreline or part of the eastern shoreline and the maintenance dredging of the channel leading to service jetty. The maintenance dredging of the southwestern channel will be undertaken in about every five years and beach nourishment every two or three years but not more than once a year. Lankanfushi has been reclaimed to more than double its original size in the recent past. The island is surrounded by a large expanse of lagoon or reef flat on the eastern side and similar expanse of reef flat with dredged lagoon on the western side. The western side is exposed to wind generated waves during the southwest monsoon while the eastern side is exposed to wind generated waves during the northeast monsoon as well as swells during both monsoons. The eastern side reef flat has not been subjected to any anthropogenic changes such as dredging as in the western reef flat where dredging has been undertaken to reclaim the original island to its current size. While the dredged basin in front of the western beach helps to minimize the effect of waves on the shoreline, the dredging has been done a bit too close to the shoreline resulting in the dredged area acting as a sink for sediment moving long shore as well as offshore due to scour. Therefore, regular beach nourishment by pumping sand from near shore areas has helped to keep the beaches following erosion. Recently, the Ministry of Tourism stopped this practice without an assessment of environmental impacts. While regular beach nourishment is necessary to keep the beach, which is the primary attraction of the island, regular beach nourishment also degrades the water quality in the immediate area for a short period due to continuous suspension and re-suspension of fine sediments in the water column. Although this impact is undesirable, beach erosion is much more undesirable from the operator’s point of view. Therefore, a compromise needs to be arrived at by minimizing the frequency of beach nourishment. In Soneva Gili, beach erosion becomes a concern when the roots of coconut palms planted in the area are seen all along the beach. This is mainly associated with landscaping as the extent of coastal vegetation is expected to be parallel to the shoreline. Therefore, it has been proposed to shift the shore in some areas by creating a feeder headland that feeds eroding areas down drift and helping to reduce the frequency of beach nourishment. In order to further minimize the frequency of beach nourishment and keep the beaches less prone to erosion, added structural protection has been proposed. Shore protection measures have, therefore, been evaluated and most practicable option(s) chosen to protect the eroding areas and minimize the frequency of beach nourishment. The proposed coastal protection structure is an offshore breakwater using rock boulders or similar material that would be submerged at high tide. Such a breakwater is expected to provide adequate protection from wave induced erosion on the western side, which is the cause for concern at present. However, this option would be adopted after monitoring with the option of headland beach nourishment. Therefore, the option would be considered after at least one year of monitoring or possibly two years following which any approval under this EIA report would need to be reviewed based on monitoring reports. Therefore, mobilisation of machinery to site during the first two years would be limited to excavator and sand pump. Excavator would be brought to the site in landing craft or small barges through existing dredged channel on the southwest. The entrance of the access channel would not require dredging except the lagoon area behind the reef flat thereby minimizing the impact on corals. However, during access to the area of the access channel in which shoaling had occurred, the excavators may encounter few live coral colonies. This impact would be insignificant. The impact of aesthetic and noise nuisance to tourists would be minimized by appropriate planning and supervision. This involves discussions as well as liaison with neighbouring Paradise Island Resort and Spa. Since a coastal protection project is being currently initiated by Paradise it would be easier to implement such activity on Soneva Gili and vice-versa. The overall environmental impacts of the project have been assessed using appropriate matrices and the results indicated that the proposed project has a net positive impact. That is, the project has no major adverse impacts on the environment as far as current knowledge is concerned. Given that the project has major socio-economic benefits and some environmental benefits, it is advisable to allow the project to proceed as proposed. It is also recommended to continue to monitor the impacts of the proposed project by regular monitoring of shorelines and near shore currents for at least two years and communicate and feed the data into the EIA system in the country.
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