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Title: EIA for the airport development project at HAA Dhaal Kulhudhuffushi
Authors: Zahid
Keywords: Project description
Description of the existing environment
Legislative and regulatory considerations
Impacts assessment
Mitigation and management of negative impacts
Stakeholder consultations
Environmental monitoring
Issue Date: Oct-2017
Citation: Zahid. (2017). EIA for the airport development project at HAA Dhaal Kulhudhuffushi. Male': Maldives
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 area. 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 communities.
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