The development of an artificial beach in Malé’s western waterfront could cause water pollution, reef slope failure, and damage the coastline, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report has warned.
The report released by the Environmental Protection Agency last week noted that although the project would create more public space for recreation in the congested capital, it would have several long-term negative effects on the environment.
Malé’s west coast has been “free from direct human influence” to date, the report noted, but the development project currently underway has “the potential to cause damage to reefs and reef ecological system,” causing loss in organisms due to mortality and forced migration.
The ministry of housing and infrastructure awarded the MVR40 million (US$2.5 million) project to the state-owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) on August 24. The area is planned to be developed with a recreational area, fishing pier, waterfront pavilion, beachfront park, waterfront promenade, underground parking facility, cafés, dive spots, waterfront residential mix, and a fort.
“By December of this year, citizens of Malé, especially Maafannu, will be able to swim in the [new] artificial beach,” housing minister Dr Mohamed Muiz said at the time.
The project is expected to be completed in 120 days, he said.
MTCC CEO Ibrahim Abdula Razzaq Haleem said that the project involves replacing the current breakwater with a 272 meter-long one, deepening, and then dumping sand into the area to form an artificial beach and a shallow swimming area.
Aside from the swimming track in front of the State Electricity Company building, the artificial beach on the eastern waterfront is the only swimming area currently available to residents of the capital.
The EIA report meanwhile also raised concerns over the water quality in the area due to waste water outflows into the sea from the Malé Water and Sewerage Company.
While alarming levels of fecal matter and hazardous substances were not detected in water samples, the report said continuous and careful monitoring will be needed to ensure the area is safe for swimming.
The EIA report concluded that the project could be environmentally sustainable and justifiable if proper environmental mitigation measures are taken during the construction and maintenance of the new artificial beach.
“Most of the environmental impacts associated with the development of the area can be either reduced or minimised by effective environmental management and mitigation” the report advised.