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Title: Environmental impact assessment for the proposed development of an agricultural island on Ungulu, Raa Atoll, Maldives
Authors: Sandcays
Keywords: Agricultural development projects
Legislative and regulatory considerations
Existing environment
Constructional impacts
Operational impacts
Mitigation measures
Environmental monitoring
Environmental impact assessments
Issue Date: May-2016
Citation: Sandcays. (2016). Environmental impact assessment for the proposed development of an agricultural island on Ungulu, Raa Atoll, Maldives. Male': Maldives
Abstract: This report provides the finding of an environmental impact assessment conducted for the proposal of an agricultural development at the island of Ungulu, Raa Atoll. Environment Impact Assessment is required before undertaking any developmental project such as agriculture development that may have a significant negative impact on the natural environment of the island under Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation 2012. Hence, this report is written to fulfill the legal obligations under the EIA regulation. The project is proposed by Ms. Aasima Hassan and the island of R. Ungulu is also leased to Ms. Aasima in 2016 to develop agricultural activities. The proposed agricultural project, at Ungulu is based on production of high quality banana, papaya and coconuts for supplying produce to surrounding resort islands. This project also involves along with the establishment of commercial farming plots for banana, papaya and coconut plantation, small scale goat husbandry and poultry farm, establishment of a fuel reserve and infrastructure such as packing and storage facilities, utility facilities and staff quarters. The proposed development would produce some of the imported fresh food locally to reduce cost to consumers and also provide them with better quality goods. The proposed project has the following major components:  Agro-Forestry: The concept of growing agricultural crops alongside forest trees, for integrated farming systems  Banana (1100m2 plot), Papaya (1100m2 plot) and Coconut Plantation (3268m2 plot): areas are dedicated to growing banana, papaya and coconut palms with some areas allocated for native trees.  Goat Husbandry and Poultry Farm: Providing goats to buyers for religious festivals and poultry products to the market.  Fuel Storage Tanks: to store fuel needed for the operation of the power plant in the island Ungulu agriculture development project is part of the embodiment of the Government’s vision for promoting food security and to increase yield and optimum land use through improved and high yielding crops and hybrid varieties, cultivation designed for more sustainable and commercial scale agricultural produce such as year round banana produce and Maldivian coconut produce. The project would include infrastructure to support the project and land clearance for banana, papaya and coconut plantation. This project involves the establishment of commercial farming plots for banana, papaya and coconut plantation along with goat farm and poultry farm and utility and other required infrastructure such as packing and storage facility and staff accommodation. Construction of the buildings will be kept to a minimum; staff accommodation, kitchen / dining facilities will be constructed to accommodate about 20 people for the agricultural works. A small harbor is to be constructed on the southern side of the island while a small jetty will be constructed on the northern side of the island. The baseline environmental conditions were assessed using standard methods. 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 Raa Atoll as a whole, 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 sedimentation due to harbor construction work. The main mitigation measures for the proposed project would be that clearance take place only where necessary and dredging activities be carried out within a short period of time. Septic tanks 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. The activities proposed in the project comply with the environmental laws of the Maldives, its rules and regulations, including requirements of those agencies relevant to the agricultural development works enforcement. Alternatives have been identified in the project document. These include alternative for a remote harbor in contrast to the proposed embedded design. Also, “no-development” option was also analyzed so that the island could be used by local community as is currently being used. 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. Therefore, the consultants propose exploring use of alternative renewable sources to the proposed fuel based energy generation. 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 Ungulu as an agricultural island; nonetheless, the consultants suggest proponent to explore alternatives presented in this EIA prior to construction.
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