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Title: Environmental impact assessment for the proposed reclamation of Thilafalhu, Thilafushi, Kaafu Atoll, Maldives
Authors: Sandcays
Keywords: Land reclamation
Legislative and regulatory considerations
Existing marine environment
Existing coastal environment
Meteorological conditions
Existing socio-economic environment
Construction impacts
Operational impacts
Mitigation measures
Environmental monitoring
Environmental impact assessments
Issue Date: Jan-2011
Citation: Sandcays. (2011). Environmental impact assessment for the proposed reclamation of Thilafalhu, Thilafushi, Kaafu Atoll, Maldives. Male': Maldives
Abstract: This report addresses the environmental concerns of the proposed reclamation of 167 hectares of land from Thilafalhu lagoon in Thilafushi, Malé Atoll. The project has been contracted to Heavy Load Pvt. Ltd. by the state owned company, Thilafushi Corporation mandated with the development of Thilafushi as an industrial island. The primary objective of the project is to provide space for the growth of light industrial activities, proper port facilities and the development of related institutions. The provision of space for these activities will subsequently help to minimize congestion and pollution problems in the nation’s capital, Malé. As such, the project encompasses dredging and filling of the entire shallow lagoon area in Thilafalhu comprising a 167hectares of land. The filling will be undertaken with necessary coastal protection measures to ensure that the dredged material remains intact and thus objectives are achieved. Thilafushi, due to its official status as the industrial island and due to its closeness to Malé, the capital, is the industrial hub of the Maldives. Thilafushi also has the national landfill where partially segregated waste is burned at low temperatures and the resulting debris is buried to reclaim land. Although land is scarce at Thilafushi, the potential for reclamation to meet the ever increasing demand for industrial land is quite high. The process of reclamation using garbage of all sorts is slow and only one-fifth of the existing Thilafushi has been, fortunately, reclaimed in this way. The rest has been reclaimed due to demand for land at this so-called industrial island located at 15-minutes boat ride from the national capital, where over a third of the nation’s population live and work. Despite its closeness to Malé, which is probably the most congested city in the world, very little attention has been paid (over the last several years of its operation) to the environmental impacts of the landfill at Thilafushi including the health burden due to air pollution caused by open burning of waste. Hence, there is a pressing need to plan and execute the waste management process as well as the industrial land development at Thilafushi in such a way that long term environmental impacts as well as the health burden are minimized and the project is ecologically sustainable and socially-acceptable. For this reason, the recently formed Thilafushi Corporation and Waste Corporation are working together to separate the two very important tasks of waste management and industrial land development, whereby Thilafushi Corporation is focused on industrial land development at Thilafushi while Waste Corporation is focused on waste management. Due to the lack of land for industrial activities in the Greater Malé region, Malé has been subjected to the effects of development related burdens on land such as international port facilities, warehousing, light industrial activities such as vehicle services, printing services and carpentries mixed with an ever growing demand for residential development. Use of large vehicles for the warehousing and distribution of over 70% of all goods imported to the country is increasing the congestion in Malé. While this has been a result of poor planning in the past, it has created a disproportionate demand for land in the capital, inflating land value in Malé. While this may be plausible to land owners in Malé, it is affecting the overall standard and cost of living in Malé as well as the cost of goods and services nationwide. It is also creating a vacuum in the overall development of the country, increasing the burden of disease and creating environmental, social and economic problems of unforeseen magnitude. Therefore, the proposed project will have enormous socio-economic and environmental benefits associated with it in the short to long term while there will be short term economic and environmental impacts associated with the construction or development phase. The overall environmental impacts of the project have been assessed using appropriate methodologies including data collection through a field survey, consultations, purpose-built checklists and professional judgments. The overall results indicated that the proposed project had a high net positive impact. Given that the project has major socio-economic benefits as well as long term health and environmental benefits for the majority of the nation’s population, as discussed earlier, it is recommended to allow the project to proceed as proposed. Environmental monitoring recommended for the project includes the monitoring of the shorelines of the newly reclaimed area, water quality and drogue studies around Thilafushi for at least two years from the onset of the proposed project implementation. Monitoring is also expected to cover public views and grievances about the project and future use and development of the reclaimed land and the contribution it makes to the national economy. Annual monitoring reports have to be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency over the monitoring period.
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