The Government of Maldives (GoM) has proposed the development of a port in Gulhifalhu Lagoon to alleviate the traffic load and congestion at the existing Male Commercial Harbour (MCH). Due to increases of tourism and population in recent years, the demands on the port have increased substantially. As the number of resorts islands and economic activities are increasing, port traffic is expected to continue increasing for the foreseeable future. The bottlenecks created at the “Gateway to Maldives” stands in the way of future economic growth and economic diversification strategy planned by the present Government. The port relocation will not only allow space for a significant expansion of port activities but will also free up space for redevelopment on Malé, which will create a better and safer living environment.
The Governments’ specific reasons for considering Gulhifalhu over Thilafushi are:
- Thilafushi was still required to house critical port facilities that could not be mixed with container cargo, including dry bulk goods and liquid bulk goods.
- The Government intends to continue the use of Thilafushi as the Regional Waste Management Centre.
- Thilafushi has been earmarked for large scale utilities development for the Malé Region requiring land.
- Thilafushi has been earmarked for industrial activities, particularly an industrial park.
The first stage of dredging and reclamation has been completed in March 2021.
Preparatory work for Stage 2, including bund construction, is expected to begin within the next 2 months. Dredging, reclamation and shore protection activities are expected to begin within the next 3-4 months.
A Trailing Suction Hopper Dredger (TSHD) will be used. A detailed description of the functioning of a TSHD is included in EIA Chapter 3.2.3.
Borrow areas in North Male’ Atoll will be dredged https://www.gulhifalhu.mv/project/
Outside of the Atoll, water depths steeply decline to >2 km depth. Due to this large depth, it is not possible to dredge outside of the Atoll.
A total of 24.5 million cbm of sand will be dredged from North Male’ Atoll to create a 194 hectare island on Gulhifalhu.
During stage 1, which was completed in March 2021, 6.5 million cbm of sand was dredged and 42 hectares of land has been reclaimed.
During stage 2 of dredging and reclamation, it is proposed to dredge 18 million cbm of sand from North Male’ Atoll and an area of 150 hectares will be reclaimed.
To minimise the impacts from turbidity and sedimentation, reclamation works will take place after completion of the containment bund works complemented where necessary and practical by silt screens.
In sections of the borrow area close to sensitive reefs, ‘Controlled Overflow’ https://www.gulhifalhu.mv/project/ , the dredge vessel will make use of a green valve: a device installed on the dredge vessel that decreases turbidity generated during dredging works. Specific controls are in place to minimise impact during periods of coral spawning and/or coral bleaching.
Dredging closest to resorts will be executed during night-time as much as possible, to limit visual impact on tourists
Shoreline of the reclaimed island facing the sea will be protected using rock revetment.
The exception is the future port quay wall area located on the north eastern corner facing the atoll lagoon, which will be sheet piled as part of the port development activities. As port development activities will start in a later stage, the exposed beaches facing the sea have been protected using temporary geobag revetment as part of the Stage I works.
To minimise the impacts on marine traffic safety and people dependent on tourism activities, e.g. dive operators and resorts, the planning of construction activities will be communicated throughout the duration of the Project, and dredging schedules will be shared with Maldives Ports Limited to help stakeholders plan and prepare.
Yes. Baseline environmental surveys were conducted as part of the initial EIA and subsequent addendum to the EIA for the project. The surveys included, amongst other aspects, the seawater quality, sedimentation rate, coral reef health at select reefs in close proximity to the dredging and reclamation footprints.
Water quality and sedimentation rate will be monitored to determine the extent of impacts and the effectiveness of mitigation measures. The complete monitoring schedule, including all environmental and social monitoring, can be found at https://www.gulhifalhu.mv/env-monitoring/
3. Where can the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Reports and Supplementary Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) reports be accessed?
The EIA and supplementary ESIA can be accessed at https://www.gulhifalhu.mv/eia-esia/
The EIA was drafted and approved in accordance with national legislation. However, as the Stage II of the Project is financed by international banks, the Project is also required to adhere to international standards and guidelines, including the IFC Performance Standards and Equator Principles 4. In some disciplines, such as environmental & social management and climate change, these international standards require more detailed studies than required by national legislation. In order to comply to these international standards, additional environmental and social assessments have been conducted, namely the reports included as appendices to the Supplementary ESIA at https://www.gulhifalhu.mv/eia-esia/
A Grievance Redressal Mechanism has been set up for the project and Community Liaison Officer (CLO) has been appointed to register and address the grievances.
The ways to reach the CLO and lodge a concern/complaint are described at https://www.gulhifalhu.mv/feedback/
The loss of Gulhifalhu lagoon as coral reef habitat is compensated for through a Biodiversity Offset Management Plan, which is currently under development with the relevant authorities.
Livelihood Restoration Implementation Plan will be finalized once the livelihood baseline surveys are completed. The livelihood surveys are currently ongoing.
The sand borrow areas are deep atoll basin area mainly made-up of sandy bottom, that does not support significant live coral colonies. Hence no corals are planned to be relocated from the dredging footprint.
Live coral colonies that fall within the reclamation footprint and the lagoon basin will be relocated as much as possible before the commencement of reclamation activities. Coral relocation activities undertaken so far are described at https://www.gulhifalhu.mv/coral-relocation/