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Title: Environmental impact assessment report for the proposed removal of seagrass and beach nourishment Diva Maldives, South Ari Atoll, Maldives
Authors: Sandcays
Keywords: Beach nourishment
Seagrass removal
Sand pumping
Coastal protection
Existing marine environment
Existing coastal environment
Mitigation measures
Environmental impacts
Environmental monitoring
Legislative and regulatory considerations
Environmental impact assessments
Issue Date: May-2011
Citation: Sandcays. (2011). Environmental impact assessment report for the proposed removal of seagrass and beach nourishment Diva Maldives, South Ari Atoll, Maldives. Male': Maldives
Abstract: This report addresses the environmental concerns of the proposed sand pumping for beach nourishment and seagrass removal in Diva Maldives, located on Dhidhdhoofinolhu South Ari Atoll at 4°29'43.10''N and 72°53'55.28''E. The island located at 98 Km away from Male’ International Airport is 1.7 Km long and 150 m wide with a total land area at 25 acres with vegetations similar to other resorts across Maldives. The proponent of this project is Diva Maldives operated by Naiade Resorts Pvt. Ltd. founded in 1987. This five star resort similar to that of several other resorts and inhabited islands across Maldives is subjected heavy erosion and lagoonal seagrass. The resort has been undertaking a beach nourishment program since began its operation, which however has been suspended temporarily for environmental clearance. Secondly, the dense seagrass coverage is severely affecting the overall operation including guest complaints due to continuous beaching of seagrasses. Hence, the management is extremely in need of finding a solution to seagrass and continue sand pumping for beach enhancement. The alternatives to the proposed covering of seagrass with sand are to excavate the entire seagrass beds using excavator to an estimated depth of 0.3 m, remove it using sand pumps mounted barge and cover with mats by blocking sunlight. It has been estimated a total area of 477476m2 have to be dredged out making sure the root system (rhizomes) gets removed from lagoon. Hence the estimated volume of dredged material (mixed with sand and seagrass) will be at 143,240.1m3. Approximately, 70% of lagoon is covered with seagrass, which keeps tourists from going to lagoon for snorkelling, bathing and other recreational needs. Sand pumping and seagrass removal are two independent operations proposed under the project which will have positive and negative impacts. The negative impacts to environment include loss of seagrass ecological system and damage to habitats for thousands of bottom dwelling organisms (mud feeding, filter feeding and juvenile fish etc) and a few of young and adult fish communities. The lagoon in the eastern side of the island is found with abundance of fish and range of mud feeding organisms. These organisms will be affected due to loss of bottom and deterioration of water quality from re-suspension of sediments from these operations. However, this impact would not be significant as the seagrass bed and its habitat is not considered to be a significant ecological system based on current knowledge. Also, the impact significance of siltation or sedimentation is low with almost negligible impact on the reef. The positive impacts of resuming beach nourishment will be that it will help to protect coastal properties (e.g. guest rooms) and other amenities, particularly on western side and northern tip of the island. Similarly, seagrass removal would help to bring an end to the continuous guest complaints, which in turn will help to gain additional markets. The overall environmental impacts of the project assessed using appropriate matrices, professional experience/judgement and the results obtained on existing situation of Diva Maldives indicated that the proposed project has net positive impact compared to overall negative environmental impacts. Given that the project has major socio-economic benefits although there would be some minor negative environmental impacts, it is recommended to allow the project to proceed as proposed. Environmental monitoring recommended for the project includes the monitoring of the shorelines and beach profiles at project site before, during and after the work. Marine water quality including turbidity, salinity, conductivity, pH and dissolved oxygen level etc need to be monitored every three months from the onset of the project up to about six months from the completion of proposed project activities. Annual monitoring reports have to be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency during the monitoring period. Regular monitoring is important because the environmental clearance that will be given after two years from the initial approval would be given based on regular environmental monitoring records of the past two years.
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