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Title: Environmental impact assessment for the proposed access channel at Diamonds Athuruga Beach and Water Villas, South Ari Atoll, Maldives
Authors: Sandcays
Keywords: Channel dredging projects
Legislative and regulatory considerations
Meteorological conditions
Constructional impacts
Operational impacts
Mitigation measures
Environmental monitoring
Environmental impact assessments
Issue Date: May-2013
Citation: Sandcays. (2013). Environmental impact assessment for the proposed access channel at Diamonds Athuruga Beach and Water Villas, South Ari Atoll, Maldives. Male': Maldives
Abstract: This report discusses the findings of an Environmental Impact Assessment for the proposed dredging of the existing entrance channel on the north of Athuruga, South Ari Atoll. The project is proposed by Voyages Maldives Pvt. Ltd. for Diamonds Athuruga Beach and Water Villas. Athuruga is one of the oldest and most renowned resorts in the Maldives with luxury beach and water villas, spa, restaurants and bars. The project is targeted at improving access by dredging or maintenance dredging of the existing access channel through which guest transfers to and from the deep lagoon takes place. Diving dhonis also use this area for diving lessons and the channel is the primary access for several such services for the resort. Supply vessels as well as other vessels also use the deep lagoon area as a natural mooring area. The project entails the dredging of the channel using excavator on a barge. The volume of the dredged sand is approximately 3500m3 and is proposed to be disposed into the deep lagoon due to the small volume and low environmental impact. The alternative to this would be to dispose the material in the sea, where it would impact an unknown environment and would be of no use. The other alternative of moving the material onshore would involve greater costs and also movement excavator on beach and land, which is not desirable. The dredge material is less sand and more rubble, therefore, sieving such a small volume for use in beach nourishment would be cost-prohibitive. Environmental impacts were assessed for both the construction and operation phase of the project. Most of the environmental impacts of the project have been identified as positive resulting mainly from improved access and mooring, improved services, direct and indirect employment opportunities, increase in related business ventures, and so on. The main negative environmental impact of the project is identified to be the possible movement of low levels of sediment towards the reef. The movement and settlement of fine sediments are expected to occur on the reef flat, which is mainly dead. There may be some sediment movement on to the reef slope and edge. This would be negligible due to the small volume of dredge material. Therefore, the environmental impacts of the project are considered to be of little or no significance. The project is undertaken due to the socio-economic benefits that entail including easy access at all tides creating improved guest transfers and services. The impact matrices done for the project indicates a net positive impact, however, the magnitude of the net positive impact is small possibly due to the small size of the project. There are no mitigation measures except for general mitigation measures such as appropriate supervision during the civil works and staff awareness on environmental protection. Such guidance shall focus on ensuring that fuelling of excavator and other machinery is undertaken with caution and that coral damage is minimized by excavating only the areas that require excavation. During the construction phase, it is also vital to undertake daily in-situ monitoring of total suspended solids and turbidity to ensure that water quality criteria are met and sedimentation on the reef does not occur. In addition, monitoring of water quality and drogues shall be undertaken for about a year. It is recommended to incorporate these into an island-wide monitoring programme, which is not within the scope of this EIA report. In conclusion, it appears justified from a technical and environmental point of view, to carry out the proposed project to dredge the existing entrance channel on the north of Athuruga resort.
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