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Environmental impact assessment for Fainu airport rejected

Fainu islanders have been lobbying against the airport project.



The Environment Protection Agency rejected Wednesday an environmental impact assessment conducted for the controversial Fainu airport project.

The “poor quality” EIA report was incomplete and failed to meet requirements, the watchdog decided.

As the EPA’s approval of assessments conducted by independent consultants is required by law, the project would be put on hold until the developer submits a new report.

Stakeholders and target groups whose livelihoods would be affected were not consulted, the EPA noted, including “farmers, local women who use the area for resource use and people who use the area for recreation.”

The report’s chapter on impacts and mitigations was “inadequate” and lacked specific details on vegetation removal, erosion impact, relocation of homes, and waste management. It also failed to cover mitigation measures for potential flooding of the island and impact on terrestrial fauna and groundwater from dewatering.

A group of environmentalists and Fainu islanders have been lobbying against the airport project as two-thirds of the island, including farmlands and large swathes of vegetation, would be lost.

More than a thousand people have signed an online petition to save the island’s dense forest.

The MVR123 million (US$8 million) project was contracted to the state-owned Island Aviation Services to be financed through advance ticket sales, which have been bought in bulk by Universal Enterprises, one of the largest hospitality companies in the country.

The EIA report warned of negative impacts, including vegetation clearing, loss of farmlands affecting the island economy, loss of biodiversity, the reclaiming of 83 hectares of land, and impacts from workforce and heavy machinery.

But the #SaveFainu campaign raised doubts about the EIA report when it was released last week. The tree count was inaccurate and the consultants failed to meet islanders, activists said.

The group protested outside the environment ministry Wednesday morning.

Other issues flagged by the EPA included failure to explain the methodology for the social survey, lack of estimated number of jobs that would be created, lack of an approved land use plan, and inadequate vegetation survey.

“The report needs to specify the numberand type of mature palms and trees to be removed, compensation method andthe party responsible for compensation,” it noted.

Required information was missing on several aspects, including “beach profiles, wave climate and wave induced currents, future climaterisks, seasonal patterns of coastal erosion and accretion, erosion prone areas of the island.”

Photo from Navaanavi