|Abstract: ||This environmental impact assessment (EIA) report highlights the findings of the EIA carried out for the proposed coastal protection of the north-eastern coast at Gn. Fuvahmulah, the Maldives. The EIA was prepared as a fulfilment of the mandatory requirement under the EIA Regulations 2012 of the Maldives and the international standards of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to comply with the requirements of the ORIO Fund from the Netherlands and to obtain environmental clearance from the Environmental Protection Agency of the Maldives prior to the commencement of the Project.
The Proponent of the project is the Ministry of Environment and Energy, Government of the Maldives. The Project cost is estimated to be between €18 – 22 million.
This EIA report has been prepared in accordance with the Terms of Reference agreed between the proponent and the Maldives’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) following the scoping meeting held on 20 June 2016.
Technical consultancy for the Project is provided by Royal HaskoningDHV from the Netherlands and the Maldives Energy and Environmental Company (MEECO) Pvt. Ltd has been sub-contracted to carry out the Environmental Impact Assessment and the related studies.
Coastal erosion is one of the most serious environmental issues facing Fuvahmulah. According to the present assessment, coastline regression due to erosion has been on average 0.8m/year over the period of the past 47 years (1969 – 2016). It is believed that approximately 15 ha of land had been lost from the island due to erosion. As a result, several important buildings, facilities and palm trees have been found at the border of the eroding coastline. The project Island has an elongated shape with raised ridges at the coastal margin sloping down towards the middle where depressions with swampy areas and two freshwater lakes in the middle. The ridge forms a natural protection against flooding of the island. However, erosion is threatening the integrity of the ridge at the north-eastern side of the island. When the ridge breaches serious flooding of a large part of the island will occur affecting the livelihood of the people, freshwater bodies, agricultural produce and infrastructure on the Island. The population on the Island is highly concerned about this serious risk resulting in feelings of insecurity and limiting socio-economic development of the island.
Although coastal erosion is experienced by many other islands in the Maldives, Fuvahmulah has become the priority island, because it is one of the biggest and most populated islands in the Maldives with good infrastructure, social services, wetlands, freshwater bodies and a high potential for agriculture .This is an exception for the Maldives. The Government of the Maldives has recently accorded city status to Fuvahmulah. The city status will draw further investments to the island.
Fuvahmulah is considered one of the envisaged growth centre islands in the Maldives for the future. The Government of the Maldives is further investing infrastructure and development of the island through several ongoing projects, and has the intention to develop Fuvahmulah as a safe island with a concentration of population and facilities that will attract people both from smaller less populated islands as well as offer an alternative for migration to the congested capital Male’.
According to current assessments the 2.6 km of northeast coastline is undergoing serious erosion, starting just north of the port and reaching till about 700 meter from Thundi Beach in the north of
the Island. In severely eroding areas, beach sand has been completely lost exposing the bedrock underneath. During high tide, waves reach the island’s coastal ridge.
While rubble, beach rock and coarse sand form the main composition of the material on the eroding coast, the lagoon region found along the northeast coast had very poor live coral cover. Due to the erosion the coastal vegetation belt is getting damaged, with tall coconut plants being lost to erosion.
Information and data for the EIA was collected by making two field visits to the island in May 2015 and July 2016. During these visits baseline data was collected and stakeholder discussions on the project were held. In addition, all available relevant literature and comparable studies were reviewed.
In order to identify the most appropriate alternative to protect the coastline, a long list of eight potential coastal protection measures was compiled. This long list was assessed against a number of criteria to select the most favourable ones. Two feasible and effective options that are believed to be most appropriate to the existing conditions of Fuvahmulah have been selected– an offshore breakwater and an onshore revetment. These two alternatives were further investigated in a quantitative multi-criteria analysis (MCA).
While an offshore breakwater will reduce the erosive force of the approaching waves, therewith creating calmer conditions on the lee of the structure, the onshore revetment will protect against erosion at the shoreline itself. The effectiveness to protect against erosion is considered higher for the onshore revetment than for the offshore breakwater. The offshore breakwater has more uncertainties in the design, making it less certain that erosion will be prevented completely. In addition, the risk that Thundi Beach may be affected by additional erosion due to the coastal protection structure is considered higher for the breakwater option than for the onshore revetment. Based on these main considerations the onshore revetment was selected as the most preferred option.
The onshore revetment has been designed taking into account wave characteristics and predicted sea-level rise for the Maldives. The structure will be placed seawards to limit the effect on the vegetation belt after profiling the broken ridge with a quarry run. Underneath the rock armour geotextile layer may be placed to prevent undercutting. The crest level of the structure will be +3.5m from MSL and will have a design life of 50 years. The structure will have a length of 2,650 meters and a width of 27 meters, starting at the port towards the north. A total volume of 131,979m3 of granular rock will be required.
A bulk carrier would transport the materials to the island (most probably from India) while smaller bulk carriers, trucks and equipment that are commonly used for such works will be utilised for the processing and the placement of the rocks. Rocks will be unloaded and stockpiled in the outer harbour and transported to the site of placement by trucks running over the revetment itself, therewith minimising transport over the island itself. The construction is expected to take 12 months.
Quality assurance during designing and constructions will ensure minimum maintenance during the design life of the structure.
All environmental and socio-cultural (positive and negative) impacts expected from the Project have been identified for both the onshore revetment and the offshore breakwater. Cost effective, robust measures have been identified to mitigate against adverse impacts and to enhance the
positive impacts. Highlighted below are the likely impacts and related measures for the preferred alternative – the seaward onshore rock armour revetment.
The main positive impact of the project is the minimisation of the risk that the island will be flooded as a result of breach in the ridge due to coastal erosion. This limits the risk of loss of life, damage to natural and economic assets, feelings of insecurity in the population and limitations to socio-economic development and in the ultimate scenario an abandonment of the island. Protecting the island’s integrity will enhance the sustainable development of the island in economic, social and environmental terms. To coordinate and enhance integrated development of the island an integrated development plan should be prepared, implemented and monitored in close cooperation with the population and local stakeholders.
Construction of 2650 m long and 27 m wide revetment would mean irreversible altering of a footprint of 71,550m2 of existing coastal environment, which is inevitable. The long term erosion of the island’s coastline has already effectively converted the footprint area into an area of low habitat value consisting mostly of rubble, beach rock and limited beach. Since the objective of the revetment is to provide protection and security to the people and the terrestrial habitat, the benefits of coastal protection far outweigh the negative impact of permanent conversion of the existing coastline.
Quarrying of rock boulders changes landscape, creates noise, dust and safety risks at the location of the quarry. Hence, obtaining rocks from a certified supplier is required and the design has been optimised to limit the material requirements.
Transport (both land and sea) of materials from the source country to the project site and the energy utilised by the machineries and trucks would generate emission of Green House Gases (GHGs) and other polluting gases. A total of 9,650 ton CO2 emissions will be generated by the production and transportation of the construction material and the placement of the materials as the revetment. Consequently supplying materials from the closest available source, efficient use of vehicles, equipment and bulk supply and proper maintenance of vehicles and equipment are required to limit the CO2 emissions.
In addition to climate change impacts, the movement of vehicles when used on the island itself can damage unsurfaced roads, create risks of accidents, noise, vibrations, dust and risks of spills of fuel or waste on land.
However, a construction method has been proposed to use the revetment itself as a transportation route to get the construction material from the port to the site of placement. Construction of the first layer of the revetment will start at the port and while working towards the north a path will be laid for the vehicles to use. The second layer of the revetment will be laid starting in the north, working backwards towards the port still driving over the revetment. In this way transportation overland can be kept to a minimum and will mainly consider staff, small supplies and supervision. Access paths for vehicles will be located in areas of low habitat value, away from sensitive receptors and public to minimise transport related impacts.
An advantage of the offshore breakwater would have been the creation of a large safe swimming area at the lee side of the structure, which is not the case with the onshore revetment. This has been compensated by including steps in the design so that the water will be easily accessible and by reinforcing the current small tetrapod breakwaters with rocks and installing a safety line to enhance
the current swimming areas. Works in the coastal zone create risks of damaging coastal vegetation and sites of historical and cultural importance. Therefore, fencing and/or delineation of these areas prior to construction along with carefully selected routes for vehicle movement have been proposed. In addition mature trees will not be removed unless all options have been explored. In the unlikely event of a tree removal existing regulations will be followed and implemented.
Next to the vegetation, there is also a risk of damaging the geological features such as the island ridge and beach rock. It can also cause soil compaction and can affect the beach fauna. Setting up access routes and using protective boarding for vehicles and low ground pressure machinery to drive on have been proposed to mitigate these effects.
Generation of construction waste, waste oil and other hazardous wastes, fuel spills have a potential to pollute the environment, as well on land as in the sea. Hazardous and non-hazardous waste generated by the Project shall not be allowed to be discarded on the island since Fuvahmulah lacks a waste management system. It is proposed to designate an area for waste collection for subsequent disposal at Thilafushi landfill site. Hazardous or potentially polluting materials such as fuel, oil, batteries, chemicals etc. will have to be stored on an impervious base (concrete pavement) away from water and properly bunded and kept locked when unattended. In addition, storage of fuel, equipment and construction materials have also been proposed to be properly stockpiled so as to minimise the risk of soil or sediment contamination or water pollution and to avoid material wastage.
Vessel and barge movements shall be coordinated by the authorities to limit the risks of grounding or collisions, which can potentially cause spills or other hazardous substances.
An emergency plan that shall be submitted by the contactor will further ensure that procedures to prevent or mitigate impacts due to accidents or spillages are in place and operate effectively during the Project implementation.
The risk of moving the erosion problem to north with the risk of affecting Thundi area is an uncertain element in the current assessment. This is mainly due to lack of long-term data on longshore currents and sediment transport regime around the coast. However the expert opinion is that the risk of Thundi beach erosion is low and is considerable lower in the case of the onshore revetment compared to the offshore breakwater structure.
Due to the uncertainties involved it is required to implement a detailed monitoring program to evaluate changes of Thundi area following the construction of the structure.
The visual impact of the revetment viewed from the beach may not be appealing to some people and may be considered an eyesore. In designing the structure measures that can minimise the visual impacts have been considered.
The rock armour revetment can also cause difficulties to access the beach and the sea for the people. Hence for convenience of the people steps have been incorporated into the design.
The magnitude and importance of all impacts has been evaluated and their significance assessed in the EIA report with necessary mitigation measures so that the residual impacts are well within accepted limits. With the mitigation measures in place, no activity planned under the project is expected to result in residual impacts that are of concern to the environment or to the people.
This assessment confirms that the project will adhere to the relevant existing laws and regulations and is in accordance with government policies and development plans.
The EIA revealed that the project will not result in loss of critical habitat or species or degradation of a habitat that has high ecological value nor does it involve forced re-settlement of inhabitants, loss of historical or cultural heritage and intervention into regular way of life of the people and that the predicted impacts are expected to be mitigated and residual impacts could be kept within generally acceptable levels. It has also been determined that the Project is being undertaken in state-owned land with no encroachment into private land involved. Based on the findings, the EIA concludes that the project should be allowed to proceed with the proposed mitigation and enhancement measures during the construction and operational phases of the Project as the benefits of the Project far outweigh its imposition on the environment or the people.|