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Title: Environmental impact assessment for the proposed agriculture project in Funadhoo, Gaafu Alifu Atoll
Authors: Musthafa, Amir
Wahhab, Mahfooz Abdul
Adam, Rashihu
Keywords: Project description
Description of the existing environment
Legislative and regulatory considerations
Impacts and mitigation measures
Stakeholder consultations
Environmental monitoring
Issue Date: Sep-2017
Citation: Musthafa, A., Wahhab, M. A. & Adam, R. (2017). Environmental impact assessment for the proposed agriculture project in Funadhoo, Gaafu Alifu Atoll. Male': Maldives
Abstract: The proposed project is to undertake an Agricultural Project located in the island of Funadhoo in North Huvadhoo Atoll at 0°33’42.85” N and 73°31’33.83”E. The nearest airport is Koodoo airport approximately 20km north of Funadhoo. This Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report has been prepared in order to meet the requirements of Clause 5 of the Environmental Protection and Preservation Act of the Maldives to assess the impacts of the proposed Agriculture Project in GA. Funadhoo. The main components of the project include: creating accessibility to the island, Vegetation clearance, setting up utilities, harvesting local produce, and livestock farming. Currently, about 90% of fruits and vegetables are imported from overseas to the Maldives. The majority of this food are transported to the tourist resorts and a major portion of the remainder is used by the people of Male’, Hulhumale’, Villingili and nearby islands. The quality of the fruits and vegetables which reaches the atolls is therefore, compromised and not adequate for the population in terms of quality and volume. Therefore, there has always been great need to improve on this condition. As such, one of the main objectives of this project is to meet the needs of the local communities. Interms of harvesting and growth, based on the available land, the growing area will be allocated in a manner which has minimal effects on the natural habitat and trees to effect minimum interruption. One hectare will be designed with net houses to grow most vegetables, such as cucumber, chili, tomato, capsicum and sweet melon. In addition to that, availability of affordable fruits and vegetables to the local communities in Huvadhoo Atoll will be a priority. Goods will be produced using locally available fertilizers in order to promote healthy vegetables and fruits. Another eight hectares will be used for open growing such as coconut trees, banana, papaya, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes. A two hectare area will be allocated for facility development as well as maintaining livestock. This will help to maintain a naturally fertile land and make fresh meat available in the local area. A 30kVA gensets will be established at the project site in the powerhouse, along with Two 5kVA gensets. A 10 ton RO plant will be placed in the island along with a 6 ton plant for back up. 3 septic tank systems will be put in place as sewerage system. A rainwater collection system for building roofs would be built to subsidize and support the water production facility. A micro sprinkler system will be laid along the farm for irrigation purposes. Disease control and quarantine facilities will be in place. The project is expected to be completed in 12 months. Regarding existing environment, there are no declared environmentally sensitive areas on Funadhoo island. 9 different types of vegetation species were found on Funadho during the survey. Majority of the mature trees in the island were Screw pines, typical coastal vegetation and coconut palms. It is expected that about 30 to 40 percentage of vegetation will be removed as part of the works. However, coastal vegetation will not be removed and a 20m buffer area will be maintained. The island undergoes erosion on the eastern oceanward side, although a substantial beach could be found on the western atollward side. Groundwater quality of the island was surprisingly poor, with large number of coliforms. Eastern lagoon was covered with seagrass beds, while the seagrass beds were present only near the coast on the Western side. It was observed that the Eastern lagoon was shallower compared to the Western side, having less than 1m at low tide. The results of the surveys show that 49.9% of the western reef was composed of rock with only 1.6% live corals, and limited number of target fish were observed. The legal framework for the project includes existing policy are regulation with respect to any development sensitive to the environment such as the EIA regulation, regulation on cutting and uprooting trees, Environment protection and preservation act, regulation on coral mining, waste management regulation, dredging and reclamation regulation, etc. In addition to these, there are agriculture specific regulation and guidelines, such as the Agriculture policy, general regulation for food establishment, etc. One of the most important set of guidelines with respect to the project is the Maldives Good Agriculture Standards, which has been recently formulated. While it is not mandatory to conform to the standards currently, the study strongly emphasises on its importance and recommends its incorporation to the project. Impact evaluation is undertaken by standard accepted methods. General impacts from development in uninhabited islands exists for the development such as those including vegetation removal and marine dredging, which has been noted among the more important ones. General mobilisation and setup impacts are also there, in addition to establishing and operating utilities in the island. Waste management in a secluded island such as this is important. More specific impacts occur due to handling and using chemicals and fertilizers, animal and pest control, and harvesting procedures. Mitigation measures are given for each impact. Vegetation removal is unavoidable. However, it is recommended to transplant larger trees as much as possible, and to utilise green waste as compost for the facility. Marine dredging impacts are likewise unavoidable. But the harbour is designed in such a way as to minimise the long term impacts. With regards to agricultural practices, it is strongly recommended to follow the Maldives Good Agricultural Practices. Alternatives for the project includes assessment of the no project option as per usual where the need for the project is discussed at length. It is concluded that the no project option is not viable at this stage. Other alternatives such as those for the project site, harbour area, water source, sewage options, and energy source has been discussed. The project has proposed the most simple and commonly used sources and it is recommended to proceed with these for the time being, while the harbour has been designed in the most environment friendly manner possible. Stakeholder consultations were carried out with different government authorities in addition to respective councils. The councils were generally supportive of the project. However, they all unanimously stated that they recommend more involvement of the island communities in development such as these. The government authorities expressed concern with respect to projects such as these and the agricultural industry of the Maldives in general. Monitoring program has been proposed as per usual. It is recommended to carry out annual monitoring even after the construction works have been completed. Important monitoring parameters include groundwater monitoring, marine water, marine life, shoreline, product water, general health and safety at site, etc. One of the key points with regards to impacts is, the scale/magnitude of works will be much less compared to other types of development which takes place in uninhabited islands such as airport developments or more typically, resort developments. The operation stage of the project will also be much more environment friendly than other developments. However, the main area of concern with regards to operation is apart from general good practices in maintenance and waste management, the use of fertilizers and chemicals. This can be regulated if it is ensured that the operation is in compliance with MGAP. In fact, the entire operation can be made sustainable once the operation fully conforms to the guidelines as provided by MGAP. Considering these factors and the great socio economic benefits the project will bring to the regional community, the project can be regarded to be environment friendly on a long term basis. With proper operating procedures as outlined in MGAP, mitigation measures as given in this study, and subsequent monitoring, it is recommended for the project to proceed as proposed.
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