|Abstract: ||This report discusses the findings of a social and environmental impact study under the
proposed development of agriculture on Medhufaru, Noonu Atoll. The project is proposed by
Capital Travel and Tours Pvt. Ltd.
The project targets at using Medhufaru for agriculture and produce some of the imported fresh
food locally to reduce cost to consumers and also provide them with better quality goods.
There will be clearance of about 13.29% of the land and access channel dredging.
Construction of a long jetty and services related to the proposed project such as water,
sewerage, energy and waste will also be established during the construction phase.
At present, Medhufaru is an uninhabited island not used for any purpose. However, locals of
the nearby communities such as Manadhoo use parts of the extensive lagoon around
Medhufaru for extraction of sand to be used for construction. The agriculture industry in the
Maldives is fairly undeveloped at present. Small sizes of the islands and absence of adequate
natural freshwater supplies along with the climatic factors make it hard for majority of food
imported to the Maldives to be planted and harvested on a commercial scale. However, there
are some species such as papaya, egg plants, bananas and coconut palms which can be farmed
and harvested economically. The produce can be sold to the growing tourism industry which
imports majority of their agricultural products from other countries. Hence, to develop the
agricultural industry of the Maldives and to potentially cater mainly for the market demand
from tourism was amongst main goals of this project.
Alternatives have been identified in the project document. These include alternative uses of
the island such as for a tourist resort or declaring the island as a nature reserve. However,
upon closer analysis of these options, the proposed development of the island for agricultural
purpose was found to be more viable based on the present circumstances under which the
island has been leased. The absence of easily accessible good coral reef anywhere near the
island makes it lacking for a tourist resort while nature reserves doesn’t bring any economic
benefits, rather only negative economic impacts. Also, the island does not have such unique
ecosystems that require special protection. However, there are some areas of the island such
as the wetland areas which are of some significance. Therefore, the preferred alternative
identified by the consultants was to use the island for agriculture as proposed, but conserving
parts of the island due to their ecological significance and establish a research and
conservation program within the proposed project.
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 minor
negative with highly positive socio-economic impacts. The main negative impacts from the
project include habitat loss from vegetation clearance, sedimentation and consequent impacts
on marine wildlife health and groundwater pollution from usage of chemicals such as
pesticides during the operational phase. The mitigation measures outlined for these impacts
include conserving mature trees to the greatest possible extent, minimizing sedimentation by
reducing the area to be dredged and taking precautionary measures for dredging works at the
reef entrance, reducing the use of chemicals as much as possible, establishing dust control
plans and careful supervision and training of chemical handling in addition to employing bestpractice
guidelines during the operational phase. The most positive socio-economic impacts
related to the project are increase in job opportunities, reduction in prices of agricultural
produce and increase of national revenue.
It is inevitable that there would be some negative environmental impacts. However, most of
the impacts of the proposed project are minor compared to the positive socio-economic
benefits of the proposed system. Yet, monitoring to ensure the effectiveness of the proposed
project would be necessary. Therefore, a monitoring component has been suggested which
takes in to consideration, the most important elements that require regular checks. This
monitoring component will be adhered to and will allow the assessment of changes due to
construction and implementation of the proposed agriculture project. Monitoring is
specifically focussed on employment opportunities, price changes in the market, direct and
indirect economic ventures, ground and marine water quality, changes in the hydrodynamics
of the project area as well as impacts on the reef or marine ecological area of importance.
In conclusion, it appears justified from a technical and environmental point of view, to carry
out the proposed project to develop Medhufaru as an agricultural island. However, there are
alternatives that may be more suitable and shall be considered with caution and after
understanding the costs and discussions with relevant government authorities.|