Title:
Environmental, Social, and Health Impact Assessment (ESHIA) and Appropriate Assessments for the Blue-Raman submarine cable

Duration:
September 2023 – Ongoing

Funded by:
ALA Planning Partnership Consultancy L.L.C.

Project Description:
The Blue Submarine Cable System (Blue SCS) Project is a significant venture involving a submarine fiber-optic communications cable, designed to connect France and Israel with additional connections in Italy, Greece, and Cyprus. Key stakeholders in this project include Google, TI Sparkle, and Omantel, with Primetel PLC playing a pivotal role as the project proponent and operator within Cyprus. The aim of Blue SCS is to enhance high-speed internet access and provide advanced capacity services to a diverse range of clients, including Internet Service Providers, Carriers, Telecom Operators, Content Providers, Enterprises, and Institutions.

The completion of this project is set to significantly boost broadband capacity and accelerate internet access for both individuals and businesses in the Republic of Cyprus.

In line with Cyprus’ national laws, specifically Law N.127(I)/2018, projects like Blue SCS undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study. When such projects intersect with Natura 2000 sites, a detailed Special Ecological Study (SES) or Appropriate Assessment (AA) is mandatory to ensure comprehensive environmental consideration.

The Cyprus landing site is in Yeroskipou, near Paphos, where the cable travels through a public beach area to an existing Beach Manhole (BMH), linking to the terrestrial network. Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) is responsible for the system’s engineering, manufacturing, and installation. In support, AECOM, a global engineering firm, and ALA Planning Partnership L.C.C, a local Cyprus-based consultant, are responsible for the permitting requirements in Cyprus. In turn, ALA Planning Partnership sub-contracted MER to provide marine environmental specialized services for the Blue SCS.

We were commissioned to undertake (1) the Environmental Baseline Survey (EBS) for the nearshore Cyprus and (2) develop the marine sections of the Environmental, Social, and Health Impact Assessment (ESHIA), as well as (3) the Appropriate Assessments for two potentially impacted Natura 2000 sites, namely: Moulia (CY4000006) and Oceanid (CY4000024). Our focus was the segment of the Blue SCS connecting to Cyprus, within its Territorial Seas and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The EBS encompassed gathering existing literature and primary data, with a strong emphasis on field survey data collected in Autumn 2023. These surveys focused on nearshore areas and key ecosystems, involving:

  • Bibliographic Review and mapping activities (wrecks, archaeological sites, fisheries, etc.)
  • Underwater video recording along the cable route up to 50 m depth
  • Habitat Mapping
  • Sediment and Water Analysis
  • Macrofauna analyses
  • Underwater biodiversity censuses (fish, invertebrates, etc.), identifying protected species
  • Onboard surveys with Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs)/Protected Species Observers (PSOs) for marine life in nearshore and offshore areas
  • Ecological assessments using various environmental indicators such as PREI (using Posidonia oceanica), EEI (using macroalgae) and BENTIX (using macrofauna)

 

For the ESHIA, we managed sections such as the impact assessment, mitigation, and monitoring related to the marine environment of Cyprus. We assessed the sensitivity of vital biological features against potential construction and operational impacts. Mitigation strategies were proposed to minimize impacts as much as possible. Monitoring protocols will be established if deemed necessary, Independent reports with bibliographic references will be integrated into the final EIA, submitted by ALA Planning Partnership.

 

The Appropriate Assessment studies for the Natura 2000 areas followed key stages:

  • Preliminary Screening for potential impacts
  • Detailed project description and identification of elements affecting the site
  • Onboard megafauna surveys
  • Biodiversity and ecological assessment studies
  • Evaluation of the project’s significant impacts on Natura site characteristics
  • Assessment of mitigation measures

 

This comprehensive approach ensures the Blue SCS Project progresses with a responsible and environmentally conscious methodology, contributing significantly to the region’s technological advancement while ensuring environmental conservation.