|Abstract: ||This report discusses the findings of an environmental impact assessment undertaken for
the purpose of approval for commercial sand mining at Fushidhiggarufalhu in South Malé
Atoll. The project is proposed by Endheri and Sons, who are currently involved in manual
sand mining activities in Kaafu Atoll. The EIA is required because the Proponent wishes
to use pumps for sand mining to increase their productivity and subsequent sales.
The project involves the mining of sand by using sand pump at Fushidhiggarufalhu in
South Malé Atoll. This lagoon has been approved for sand mining by the government.
However, according to the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, sand mining using sand
pumps or other machinery and mining of large volumes of sand for commercial purposes
would require EIA for approval. The Proponent wishes to use a 4 or 6-inch sand pump for
mining sand from Fushidhiggaru lagoon. The project does not cover the fill location but
pumping into containers and transporting the containers in dhoni or other vessel.
Appropriate locations have been identified at the edges of the deep lagoon areas. It is
estimated that if these areas are dredged to the same depth as the adjoining deep lagoon,
over 600,000m3/ of sand may be taken from these areas. This would be equal to about 3
years of continuous sand mining using a 6-inch sand pump.
Environmental impacts identified for the project are slightly positive overall due to the
socio-economic benefits from the project. The main positive impacts are revenue and
employment opportunities. The use of pumps will also reduce the safety concerns
associated with manual mining, which has added benefits. The use of pumps makes the
mining process less manual, therefore, safer for the workforce while increasing the
productivity. This does not necessarily mean reduced workforce as additional job
opportunities would be created. However, the socio-economic benefits of the project are
not so strong due to the scale of the project. There is the concern that other sand miners
will follow suit in which case it would be necessary to identify different locations for
different miners and geographic areas that can be mined and to make other arrangements
such as security posts. There is the potential for growth in the sand mining industry
especially with the growing construction industry and several resorts in Malé Atoll where
regular beach nourishment is a necessity but where there are no lagoon areas from which
sand can be pumped. However, there are very few places in Malé Atoll from where sand can be mined as most of the lagoons have been leased for resort development. In fact,
Fushidhiggarufalhu was previously leased for resort development and would possibly be
leased again in the near future.
There are no positive environmental impacts related to the project although it may be
argued that sand mining would be an important activity that will reduce the dependence
on imported construction material, which has large environmental impacts related to
transport. The negative environmental impacts related to mining of sand using sand
pumps include increased sedimentation during filling. The sediment as it flows from the
vessel and into the marine environment would have some degree of unwanted particles
including traces of oil and rust particles that would be on the vessel. Therefore, it would
be important to keep the top of the vessel, where the containers are filled, clean and tidy
at all times. The proposed borrow areas are several hundred metres from the reef areas,
therefore, the impacts of sedimentation are not expected to degrade the closest reef areas.
Yet, sediment control measures shall be in place in and outside the vessel.
Since the project has minor negative impacts, an assessment of alternatives was not
considered necessary. However, since the approved Terms of Reference requires
alternative borrow areas and methods to be identified, three alternative borrow areas in
Malé Atoll (near Malé) and alternative work methods of excavation including using of
excavator has been identified. The only possible alternative borrow locations in Malé
Atoll are Gulhee Falhu, Thilafalhu and the southwest end of Velassarufalhu. These
locations would have greater conflicts of interest than the Fushidhiggarufalhu at present.
However, Fushidhiggarufalhu will have conflicts in case it is leased for resort
development, which could be the case soon. The alternative of using excavator for mining
sand would not be acceptable due to the large degree of sedimentation that it would cause
followed by aesthetic impacts. It would also not be feasible due to depth limitations.
However, grab hoppers with large grab buckets may be considered a more feasible option
for sand mining using machinery.
In conclusion, it appears justified from a technical, administrative and environmental
point of view, to carry out the proposed project. While a strict monitoring programme is
not necessary, it is proposed to monitor and report to EPA the depths of the dredged areas
and marine transect from a fixed location in the closest marine areas every six months.|