|Abstract: ||The purpose of this document is to fulfil the requirements to get necessary environmental clearance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out the proposed agricultural development project in Minaavaru Island, Noonu Atoll. The proponent of this project is Impex Fisheries (Maldives), Pvt Ltd.
The main rationale for the project is to expand the agricultural industry in the atoll, in order to diversify local economy and increase economic and food security.
The project involves two main components: (1) physical infrastructure development and; (2) agricultural activities. Key infrastructure include a harbor for island access, administrative and staff facilities, research facilities, utilities (power, water and sewerage) and roads, agricultural houses and irrigation system. Agricultural activities include establishment of a nursery, agricultural fields, forestry areas, and greenhouses. The project is estimated to take 12 working months to achieve full completion of construction works.
All project activities will be in conformance to the laws and regulations of the Maldives, and relevant international conventions that Maldives is party to. The key laws and regulations applicable to this project are Environmental Protection and Preservation Act 1993 and Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation 2012.
Minaavaru Island has a well-established vegetation system. The island has been used extensively in the past for farming and there are visible signs of large areas of land that has been cleared for agricultural plots. The island does not have any unique vegetation systems. It is estimated that approximately 15.3ha of vegetation will need to be cleared for this project. The marine environment of the entrance channel area was generally made of coral rubble and sand. Live coral cover along the existing channel was very low.
Significant adverse impacts of this project during construction phase of the project are anticipated to be the potential impact of vegetation clearing on terrestrial biodiversity, impact of sedimentation on the marine water quality and consequent marine life, and the health and safety risks to construction workers. Agricultural activities during the operational phase, particularly the use of pesticide and artificial fertilisers, can also have significant negative impacts on the environment. These include soil erosion and loss of soil fertility, and groundwater and marine water contamination. All these impacts can be minimized with proper mitigation measures recommended in the report.
The main mitigation measures during construction include revegetation after construction, carrying out construction activities during low tide hours and calm weather, construction of
bunds where appropriate to reduce sediment dispersal and avoid adverse sedimentation impacts, and employee training and proper supervision of all activities by qualified personnel. During the operational phase, sustainable agricultural practices, including drip irrigation, crop rotations and composting will be adopted to minimise the impacts associated with intensive agriculture.
The alternatives evaluated for the project are alternative harbor locations, alternative breakwater construction material, alternative irrigation techniques, alternative intake locations, and alternative sediment control measures. The “No Project” option has also been explored and this option is not deemed preferable.
The monitoring plan is designed to assess any changes to the coral reef environment of the island, coastal changes as well the groundwater and marine water quality as these are the key areas that may be impacted from this project in the long term. Use of pesticides and artificial fertilisers, and irrigation water will also be monitored.
The management plan for this project is designed to produce a framework for anticipated impacts, including practicable and achievable performance requirements and systems for monitoring, reporting and implementing corrective actions. In addition it will provide evidence of compliance to legislation, policies, guidelines and requirements of relevant authorities.
In conclusion, this project has been designed in conformance to the relevant laws and regulations of Maldives. The most significant impacts are expected to be short-term impacts on the terrestrial environment due to vegetation clearing and marine water quality and marine biodiversity due to construction activities, as well as the potential long-term impacts of intensive agriculture on soil, groundwater and marine environment. However, mitigation measures have been proposed to minimise these impacts.
Overall, this project will have significant socioeconomic benefits to the population of Noonu atoll.|