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Title: Environmental impact assessment for the proposed agriculture development project at Aligau, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
Authors: Sandcays
Keywords: Aquaculture development projects
Legislative and regulatory considerations
Existing environment
Constructional impacts
Operational impacts
Mitigation measures
Environmental monitoring
Environmental impact assessments
Issue Date: Jul-2016
Citation: Sandcays. (2016). Environmental impact assessment for the proposed agriculture development project at Aligau, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives. Male': Maldives
Abstract: This report provides the finding of an environmental impact assessment carried out for the proposed agriculture development project at Lh. Aligau. The project is proposed by Pvt. Ltd., a company duly registered in the Maldives. The proposed project involves producing high value agricultural products for sale in the local market. The project aims to reduce dependency of the local populace on imported fruits and vegetables by growing as many different species of fruits and vegetables on the island. The project will also provide job and training opportunities to youth and contribute to the overall development of the country. It is proposed to grow red and green leave, tomatoes, chillies, lettuce, kale/collard (kopee faiy), melons, cucumber and similar vegetable and fruits on approximately 0.4hectares of land. Rotary Hydroponics systems and Containerized Growing System (CGS) technology will be used to grow the vegetables and fruits on the island. The CGS technology is new to the Maldives, therefore, alternative improvements to the design of the containers have been proposed in the EIA. The proposed project will have several support facilities including power, water, sewerage, jetty, staff and visitor accommodation and storage facilities developed on the island since the island is remotely located. Under the project, roughly 0.4Ha of the island will be cleared towards the middle of the island, where there are mainly coconut palms, less than 0.1Ha cleared from different areas of the island for other infrastructure and a 30m long jetty will be constructed. Services related to the project, such as staff accommodation, power, water and storage facilities will also be established on the island during the construction phase. The baseline environmental conditions were assessed using standard methods. The project areas including clearance areas and dredge areas have been studied. In addition, the island’s vegetation and shorelines were mapped. The studies indicated that the hydroponics area consisted primarily of coconut palms with other island vegetation. It has been estimated from the vegetation surveys that a total of 150 coconut palms and 50 other mature trees would need to be cleared, but a lot of it can be preserved if the buildings are appropriately designed/setout. The proposed jetty area has shallow depths, as a result of which dredging has been recommended in the EIA. Environmental impacts were identified and assessed for both construction phase and operational phase of the project. Some of the environmental impacts of the project have been identified as positive resulting mainly from improved socio-economic conditions, increased economic activities in Lhaviyani Atoll, direct and indirect employment opportunities, and increased business opportunities. The main negative environmental impacts of the project are identified to be the changes to the island ecosystem from clearance of vegetation and impact on the marine environment from a small degree of sedimentation due to dredging for jetty installation. Although only a 30m jetty is proposed, it would be necessary to create a harbour basin and a channel from the deep lagoon. However, harbor and channels are beyond the scope of this EIA and have been proposed as an important mitigation measure to minimize related socio-economic and vessel safety impacts. Other mitigation measures for the proposed project would be that clearance take place only where necessary and coconut palms are transplanted on other areas of the island or other island where the trees may be required. It is also required to plant two trees for every mature tree or coconut tree cut down. Septic tank systems have been proposed for disposing human waste and pose no long-term negative environmental impact considering the small number of people expected to be based on the island. In fact, the small volume of sludge may be sun-dried and used as fertilizer for agriculture. The activities proposed in the project comply with environmental laws and regulations of the Maldives, including requirements of the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture. These have been outlined in the report. Alternatives have been identified in the project document. These include design modifications for the proposed jetty and CGS systems. The “no-development” option was also analyzed in light of alternative uses of the island. However, upon analysis of the no-project option, the proposed development of the island for agricultural purpose was found to be more viable based on the present circumstances and use of the island. Considering the other potential alternative uses of the island, the lack of beach on the island does not make it most-suited for tourism development although beaches can be enhanced and a resort can be developed on the island, which would be a better option considering the revenue that it will generate and greater employment potential. The local agricultural produce in market such as those from Maafahi have been contributing to food security and availability of fresh agro-products for a number of years. Hence, such small scale agriculture projects are becoming increasingly important for the sustainable development of the Maldives. Alternatives to water supply, wastewater disposal and electricity have also been considered. The use of groundwater for the proposed hydroponic system is quite appropriate given the small volume of water required for hydroponic systems, however, skimming technologies have been recommended. Wastewater treatment would have negative impacts for the proposed project in terms of use of fuel-based electricity for the treatment process. Therefore, the proposed septic tank system is considered appropriate for such a small scale operation involving a small labour force. Alternative sources of power have also been looked at and recommend the use of solar (photo-voltaic) technology to the greatest possible extent. As such, it is also recommended to design the proposed containers incorporating maximum use of day light/solar energy. 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 project. Yet, monitoring to ensure the effectiveness of the proposed project would be necessary especially with new technologies such as containerized growth system technology. Therefore, a monitoring component has been suggested which takes into 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 Aligau as an agricultural island. The recommended alternatives may be considered in the light of improving environmental performance of the proposed project.
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