|Abstract: ||This environmental impact assessment was undertaken by Dr. Zahid, contracted by
Maldives Transport and Contracting Company for the development of a domestic airport at
Haa Dhaal Kulhudhuffushi, Maldives. According to Regional Airports, allocated budget for
the project is about USD11.4 million.
Kulhudhuffushi is an inhabited island located on the south of Haa Dhaal atoll.
Kulhudhuffushi is one of the most populous island in the north with a population more than
9000 people. The length of the island is approximately 2.5 km and 0.89 km in width. The
most significant natural feature of the island is existence of two wetland areas (Kulhi). The
larger one is in the northern end and small one in the south end of the island. Most dense
vegetation exists near the wetland area and eastern side of the island. Due to the high
population compared to the land size, already there is pressure on the limited available land
The project involves the development of a domestic airport with runway length of 1220m
by 30m width, taxiway with length of 90m and width of 15m and an apron with length
150m and width 45m. In addition to this, a passenger terminal, a control tower and safety
buildings will constructed at the Kulhuduffushi airport. Under the project, other related
services also will be established at the domestic airport. According to Regional Airports, the
proposed runway to be constructed to ICAO standards and will be approved by the Civil
Aviation Authority of Maldives.
The proposed airport development involves the clearing of about 6 Ha area of the island. In
addition to this, the domestic Airport at Kulhudhuffushi is proposed to be built by
reclaiming part of Kulhi and wetland area, located at the northern end of the island. This
wetland area has been listed as a “environment sensitive area” due to the unique
environmental features of the area. In addition to reclaiming wetland area, for building the
airstrip, two areas are proposed to be reclaimed from the sea area as well (two ends of the
runway will be built by reclaiming the sea area). Dredging and reclamation will be
undertaken by a Trailer Suction Hopper Dredger and borrow area will be from the deep sea .
Kulhudhuffushi airport development project activities (construction phase) will have
considerable negative impacts on the environment and will have some positive and negative
impacts during operational phase.
During construction phase, the wetland area will be highly modified and vegetation will be
removed from a large area. Environmental values of the environmental sensitive area will
be reduced due to the vegetation clearance and reclamation. The main impact is the
permanent loss of habitat for the flora and fauna and loss of terrestrial vegetation and
deforestation of part of the area allocated for runway and other facilities development.
Reclamation of Kulhi also will have impacts due to sedimentation and fish around Kulhi
will be impacted from sedimentation. The wetland area surrounding the Kulhi acts as a natural catchment area for flood mitigation. If proper drainage system is not established, the
area will experience flood impacts.
Associated with reclamation of the sea area for airstrip development, main negative impact
would be that of sedimentation on the nearby reef areas. Already the marine environment of
the project area is not in very healthy condition. Hence, any additional activity will have far
damaging impact on the marine environment. Sedimentation impact associated reclamation
is considered to be direct and limited to the construction phase but can have lasting impact.
The impact will be quite significant if sand bunds are built around the periphery of the
reclamation area as currently proposed, as due to the conditions in the area, it is very likely
the sand will get eroded on to the reef.
The island might experience some socio‐ economic benefits through employment
opportunities and minimising the cost of transport to Male’. Associated with the operational
phase of the project, noise pollution will be elevated, aesthetic value of the environment will
be reduced, restriction on the construction of multi-story buildings near the airport and
generation of waste. Due to the existence of an airport (Hanimaadhoo) near Kulhudhuffushi
may not outweigh the negative impacts of the project on the physical environment of the
island compared to the limited positive impacts from the project. There are some among the
Kulhudhuffushi island community which oppose the airport development by reclaiming the
Kulhi area. Instead of Kulhi area, they had suggested to develop the airport on the eastern
side of the island. However, due to space limitations, it was informed that this was not
practical. Other major alternatives include developing the airport in a different nearby island
without such sensitive areas. This would mean Kulhudhufushi community will have to
travel by sea to access the airport and has thus been rejected by the concerned Government
agencies and a decision has been made to develop an airport by reclaiming Kulhudhuffushi
Kulhi area, as airport development project has been a presidential pledge.
Mitigation measures for negative impacts associated with the project has been identified.
The most important mitigation measure for the reclamation of the Kulhi area is creation of
similar environment in another location as outlined in the regulation. This also has been
pointed out in the regulation that if developmental activities to be carried out at a sensitive
area, similar environment needs to be created in another location in consultation with
concerned authorities. A more practical alternative is to ensure the developer undertake a
program to protect, maintain and preserve an existing wetland area in the same region. In
order to minimize the sedimentation due to reclamation of Kulhi and sea area, it is
recommended to use of silt or sediment screens and bund walls as silt screens to cordon the
reclamation area. Sheet piles, concrete blocks or geobags can be used as bunds rather than
sand. To minimize impacts associated with vegetation clearance, it is recommended to
remove the mature trees and coconut palms and replant in another location in the island.
As some of the impacts are based on assumptions, it is important to carryout monitoring
environmental monitoring during construction and operation. The proponent commits to
undertake mitigation measures and monitoring program outlined in this EIA report.
Monitoring will help to identify the effectiveness of the mitigation measures and take precautions to minimize any damage to the environment that may arise in the future.
Baseline data collected during the compilation of this EIA report can be used for comparing
data collected during monitoring period to identify any changes to the environment
including changes to wetland habitat, terrestrial environment, hydrodynamics, reef structure
and water quality including groundwater and sea water. Although, due to the nature of the
project (proposed reclamation of the sensitive area, reclamation of the sea areas, borrow
areas for reclamation and huge cost), the project is undesirable from a purely environmental
perspective especially due to the impacts on the kulhi. However, considering the existing
condition of the kulhi and given the obligation to better protect and preserve a similar
environment in the region with a strict conservation program, the impact can be offset to an
extent. Moreover, due to lack of land, the reclamation of the wetland area in Kulhudhufushi
seems to be a question of when rather than if. There is political will to proceed with the
project along with the backing and need of a vocal majority in the island. As this is a project
that has long been delayed resulting in significant community issues, it does not seem the
project will be delayed any further. Therefore, if the project is to proceed, it has to be
ensured that all mitigation measures proposed in this report, especially regarding
conservation of a similar environment in addition to the regular monitoring proposed should
be undertaken. This is highly important to fully determine the impacts of the project, which
will also be a reference for such future endeavours and plans by government and