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Title: Environmental impact assessment for the development of a domestic airport on Kooddoo, GA. Atoll
Authors: Adam, M. Shiham
Keywords: Airport development projects
Existing environment
Marine environment
Terrestrial environment
Socio-economic environment
Environmental impacts
Mitigation measures
Legislative and regulatory considerations
Environmental monitoring
Environmental impact assessments
Issue Date: Oct-2011
Citation: Adam, M. S. (2011). Environmental impact assessment for the development of a domestic airport on Kooddoo, GA. Atoll. Male': Maldives
Abstract: 1. Kooddoo Island is located on the eastern boarder of Huvadhoo Atoll, Ga. Atoll, just south of Villingili. The island has a fresh tuna collection, freezing and storage facility owned by the state-owned enterprise – Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company Ltd (MIFCO). MIFCO was re-structured early 2011 and the Kooddoo operation was made a separate business entity under the name of Kooddoo Fisheries Maldives Private Ltd. 2. Plans for development of a domestic airport in Gaafu Alifu (GA) Atoll have been a government priority for some time. The initial plan was to have the airport on GA Villingili. A large area of the Villingili on the north eastern side was reclaimed in 2005 to provide land for housing and infrastructure developments. However, the size and shape of the reclaimed area was found to be not sufficient or appropriate for the 1200 x 30 m long aerodrome required for the domestic flights. Additional land has to be reclaimed if the airport is to be constructed on Villingili as planned, costing additional financial resources to be allocated. 3. Two uninhabited islands in region are being developed as tourist resorts and one of them - Falhumaafushi Resort - is now close to completion. Falhumaafushi Resort is expected to be officially open in early 2012. The construction of the second island Dhigurah is expected to the start very soon. These islands were tendered and developed in the hope the domestic airport on Villingili will be operational by the time of their opening. The need for a domestic airport for guest transfer is now essential to make the resorts economically viable as originally expected. 4. In order to fast tract the development of the domestic airport, the National Planning Council (NPC) in consultation with the major stakeholders in the region (i.e., Atoll and Island Councils, Members of Parliament and the Regional Administrative Offices) decided that a best possible and practical option is to have the airport on Kooddoo. 5. The developer of the airport is Bonvavista (Maldives) Private Limited, a property developer and resort owner based in Singapore. The agreement has been that the developer gets the GA. Dhigurah Island (not far from Kooddoo) for long term lease including some concession in rent for some initial period in return for the investment costs of domestic airport on Kooddoo Island. The contractor for the project is Keong Hong Construction Private Limited of Singapore. 6. At the scoping meeting the developer requested that EIA be submitted in two parts; the first one focusing only on the initial deployment of machinery, labourers and the clearance of the area required for the development. It was agreed that the second and complete EIA be submitted within the validity of the ToR (see Annex 1) and before the construction work begins. This first report therefore focused only on the initial mobilization and clearance of vegetation. The report is approved and the Decision Note issued (see Annex 2). 7. The surveys required for the EIA has been undertaken on 4-10 September 2011. Two separate trees surveys were done; one by total enumeration on randomly selected 4 x 100 x 100 m plots and the other by image analysis using a high resolution satellite imagery combined with ground truthed data undertaken as a separated survey at the same period. 8. The satellite image was classified to nine categories; “agricultural crops”, “bush vegetation”, “coastal bush vegetation”, “coconut grove”, “developed area”, “mixed woody vegetation”, “modified woody vegetation” and “open area and strand vegetation”. Highest cover was found to be in Mixed Vegetation type which through ground truth surveys were found to be Midhili, Uni and Kandhu1 and some few palm trees. For each category a range of number of trees were provide. Image analysis estimated that number of coconut trees would be in the range of 3,600 – 5,800. 9. The enumerated survey assumed that density and distribution of trees are same across the entire island. Furthermore it also assumes the random quadtrats (4 in nos.) are also representative of the floral composition of the island and their location does not create additional biases. While sound in theory in practice it may not be. The result of this simple averaging method was found to be quite different from results of the image analysis. While also acknowledging biases in the image analysis the true numbers of major trees type would probably in the range the values estimated. 10. All mature trees and coconut palms will be uprooted under the guidance and supervision to ensure that trees are in good condition for transport and replanting. The developer has identified five main potential islands; Villingili, Falhumaafushi, Vilivaru, and the newly reclaimed island of Gulhifalhu, where trees will be transported. Separate arrangement will be made by the contractor to ensure the safe transport and re-planting of tree in those islands. Experience elsewhere shows that replanted trees survive well provided that watering and enough care is given in the initial stages, particularly in uprooting and transporting. A target survival rate has been estimated at 70% and means to ensure this would be monitoring and reporting. 11. Surveys and assessment show the deployment of heavy equipment and machinery will be problematic. It was found to be almost impossible to use lifting equipment to unload the heavy machinery from barges over the quay wall. Following procedures practiced in similar projects in the Maldives, it was suggested to create a temporary landing site north of the island. An entrance to the reef already exists there but the area requires scrapping ~0.3 - 0.4 m off the substrate close to the beach area to allow flat-topped barges to move close to the beach. 12. Land and soil survey of Kooddoo showed presence of loose humus soil up to the water table at 1.4 - 1.5 m. This result was the same in locations surveyed. Laying out the air-field require two compacted aggregate base layers before the porous asphalt layer can be laid on top. These are 0.35 m thick compacted base-layer and 0.15m thick crushed aggregate course on top of the base-layer. These two layers require about 20,000m3 aggregate materials which will be sourced from local house reef. Exploring of alternatives suggests the most practical and cost-effective way to obtain the material is by dredging the house-reef. An area of about 300m x 70m x 1m on the eastern side of the reef flat will be dredged to source the required material. In all earlier airport construction projects the base layer material has been sourced from the local reef. 13. Overall the significant negative environmental impacts of the development project were found to be three; i) sourcing fill material from local reef, ii) clearance over 40% of Kooddoo area off vegetation and iii) creation of a temporary landing site for unloading/loading of construction equipment. Dredging reef flat may have immediate to medium term impacts that could potentially cause unintended erosion / accretion of the island. But shore-stabilization structures are not proposed at this stage. It was noted that significant areas of north eastern reef of Villingili was also dredged which may have potential long term impacts to the region including Kooddoo reef flat. Post- development monitoring will help to better understand the impacts to Kooddoo and provide reasonable time frame to address any remedial or mitigation measure that wil have to be implemented in a timely manner. 14. Vegetation clearance will have direct loss of habitats and potential agricultural land. Both are important in the context of the green and carbon neutral concept. However, in the long term, the construction and operation of the airport outweighs any potential of loss of ecological habitat and agricultural land. In summary significant negative impacts include loss of top soil, potential degradation of ground water quality, loss of significant area of vegetation and potential death of the significant number of trees and likely shift of ecological regime of the island in the medium to long term. Positive impacts include opportunities for economic growth and development of the region, the local aviation industry and further increase of tourism potential in GA and neighbouring area. 15. Alternatives have been proposed for project activities only. The decision to have the airport on Kooddoo is an executive high level government decision which may supersedes findings of the assessment on suitability of the site. Areas of potential impacts have been clearly identified and ways of mitigation have been suggested. The developer and contractor are fully aware of these issues and are committed to be responsible for implementing these measures during the construction of the airport and its facilities. 16. The operational arrangement of airport is not yet clear. It is envisaged that some of the services of Kooddoo Fisheries Maldives Pvt Ltd will be used for the management and day-to-day running of the airport. In this case separate arrangements will have to be made by the airport operator and the Kooddoo Fisheries Maldives. 17. Additional land surveys for levelling the air field and specification of the construction are being sought by professionals in the field. +++
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