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Title: Environmental impact assessment for the proposed commercial sand mining project at Fushidhiggarufalhu, South Malé Atoll
Authors: Sandcays
Keywords: Project description
Regulatory aspects
Project alternatives
Existing environment
Stakeholder consultations
Environmental impacts
Mitigation measures
Environmental monitoring
Issue Date: Nov-2017
Citation: Sandcays. (2017). Environmental impact assessment for the proposed commercial sand mining project at Fushidhiggarufalhu, South Malé Atoll. Male': Maldives
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.
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