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Title: Environmental and social impact assessment : ecotourism facility development Fuvahmulah, Maldives
Authors: Sandcays
Issue Date: 1-Mar-2017
Citation: Sandcays. (2017). Environmental and social impact assessment : ecotourism facility development Fuvahmulah, Maldives. Male': Maldives Male' : Maldives
Abstract: This report discusses the findings of a rapid Environmental and Social Impact Assessment carried out for the proposed Ecotourism Facility in Fuvahmulah, Gnaviyani Atoll. The project is proposed by Ministry of Environment and Energy. The design of the eco-tourism infrastructure will ensure congruence with existing land use plan and developing Communitybased Wetland Managenet Plan (CBWMP) based on community and stakeholder consultation. The project involves the design and implementation of an ecotourism package with basic infrastructure for eco-tourism (nature trails, observation hide-outs, interpretation centre, visitor convenience services). The primary objective of the project is to improve the livelihoods of the people of Fuvahmulah by creating ecotourism opportunities which will create knock-on economic effects in the community, in the tourism, agriculture and handicraft sector. The project will contribute to the socio-economic development of the local community, especially ecotourism services. Fuvahmulah is well known in the Maldives for their agricultural produce. Fuvahmulah is one of the largest landmasses in the Maldives with agricultural land including a large marshy land surrounded by freshwater lakes. This is possibly the only island with freshwater lakes in the Maldives. The proposed project would entail features unique to the ecological and geophysical setting of Fuvahmulah. The ecotourism component has also been included within the Community-Based Wetland Management Project that has been formulated recently. The overall environmental and social impacts of the projects have been assessed. General impact management and mitigation measures have been considered while project or sitespecific environmental and social management plans have been identified separately and in more detail. The overall impact of the proposed project is largely positive resulting mainly from improvements in livelihood, better management of a sensitive or protected environment, improved facilities promoting ecotourism and greater awareness of sensitive environments, especially within the local context. There would also be direct and indirect employment opportunities in the planning/design phase, construction phase as well as operational phase of the project. The main socio-economic disadvantage of the project would be the landuse ESIA for proposed Ecotourism Facility Development at Fuvahmulah, Maldives Proponent: Ministry of Environment and Energy P a g e | x Consultant: Sandcays restrictions imposed on the use of the protected areas of the wetland and thundi adding to the burden of land scarcity. There are a few negative impacts of the project including the impacts of landuse related to the project and subsequent impacts of possible removal or relocation of plants and impacts on unique ecological habitats. Since the project sites under consideration are mainly cleared land or existing water bodies, the impact on flora is almost negligible. The increased number of visitors may affect the sensitive or unique ecological habitats. The impact of waste and any effluent discharge is also considered minor or negligible especially since the island has a somewhat established waste management mechanism including wetland management activities. Impacts on groundwater lens is also considered minor with no dewatering for foundations envisaged and very low potential for accidents such as potential damage to sewerage lines in the area, if any. The project does not affect any of the World Bank safeguards and the environmental assessment safeguard has been adopted as relevant. The project does not negatively affect local communities and does not involve any relocation of affected communities. The main mitigation measures for the proposed project would be to minimize felling of trees or clearing of vegetation by design, design for maximum natural ventilation and light, design for optimal efficiency of buildings while minimizing on losses such as excess concrete as in some of the construction projects in the Maldives, minimizing and taking care in dusty operations, taking heed of noise especially during night and keeping the labour force and construction site in appropriate accommodation with appropriate facilities. Of the specific mitigation measures, it has been proposed to take care of protected trees in or in the vicinity of proposed project areas and transplanting the few trees in the proposed building locations. A grievance redress mechanism has also been proposed. It is inevitable that there would be some negative environmental impacts. However, these are minor compared to the positive impacts of the ecotourism facilities and infrastructure. Yet, monitoring has been proposed to ensure the effectiveness of the proposed impact management and mitigation measures. The proposed monitoring programme takes in to consideration effectiveness of dust and noise control measures, waste management measures including removal of excavated sand, measures to minimize falling of objects/materials during transport, provision of personal protection equipment and incidences of tree removal, where it ESIA for proposed Ecotourism Facility Development at Fuvahmulah, Maldives Proponent: Ministry of Environment and Energy P a g e | xi Consultant: Sandcays is necessary during construction and water quality of the wetland/pond areas and records at site of encounters with/sightings of terrestrial and avian species as well as visitor numbers and experiences. In conclusion, it appears justified from a socio-economic and environmental point of view, to carry out the proposed project.
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