Ahmed  Rafiu

9 mins read

Hotel Insider has a chat with Ahmed Rafiu, chairman of Salzmen Private Limited. They are known for their work in coastal protection and are currently engaged in a project on Zuha Island, from The World Islands in Dubai. We touch on this and more in this edition of In the boardroom. 

Hotel Insider: Could we start off by talking about your key services so our audience can understand you better?

Rafiu: Sure. So, we specialise in various coastal protection solutions and marine infrastructure such as   beach nourishment, construction of seawalls, groynes, and jetties. Also, we are experts in the restoration and conservation of natural coastal ecosystem such as mangroves and other vegetation near the coastline. 

Hotel Insider: Maybe we can talk about methods and materials used to offer better protection to coastlines.

Rafiu: We use a variety of materials based on the location, such as sand, rock boulders, concrete and geo fabric materials and a range of natural vegetation.  We choose the material based on their adaptability and effectiveness in stabilising the coastal areas. Every solution we propose is customised to the local environmental factors. 

Hotel Insider: Where do you get the vegetation from?

Rafiu: Local islands, local nurseries. To protect coastlines, the method we use is beach nourishment. And then we build groynes to reduce the impact of erosion. It will be easy for people to maintain the beach if the groynes are in place. And we do revetments in some cases, and also jetties as well, because they help with water circulation. All these methods differ from area to area, island by island, because the environment is totally different. 

Hotel Insider: Do you do an EIA? 

Rafiu: Yes. The Environment Impact Assessment is mandatory. It’s a regulatory requirement by the Environmental Protection Authority of the Maldives. 

Hotel Insider: But also some independent agencies, right? 

Rafiu: The independent, registered EIA consultants will be doing it. EPA will be giving the approval. 

Hotel Insider: So, your solutions are based on EIAs approved by the EPA?

Rafiu: Yes. Our solutions will be implemented based on the approved EIA. Additionally, they will be fully compliant with all regulatory requirements. 

Hotel Insider: So how long would you assess an island’s environment features before coming up with a solution? 

Rafiu: It depends on how much data we can get. So, if the topography and such data are available then we use satellite mapping solutions, and also the climate change projection methods. It will take around 30 days normally to do an initial assessment. Sometimes, it can be done within 20 days. 

Hotel Insider: What about things like beach circulation?

Rafiu: We use various numerical modelling methods for that such as wave propagation models and coastal process models to study the complex interactions between waves, sediment and underlying topography. 

Hotel Insider: Do you do that yourselves?

Rafiu: To do the modelling, we hire laboratory services from abroad. We feed the data and they create the models. 

Hotel Insider: How long do you collect the data for these models?

Rafiu: A lot of data is available from the Meteorological Center, and also from GPS as well, so you know how the island is evolving. So, if there is a barrier obstructing movement, it’s very easy now to see what will happen. The structures are designed based on this data. Plus, to protect the natural environment of the resorts, there are a few things we need to give them at the beach. It’s not only about protection. The aesthetic considerations are also very important. So, all these consultation processes will take place during the Environmental Impact Assessment. And if there is a reclamation project, then the nearby island communities will also be consulted as well. 

Hotel Insider: What was the island that you did some reclamation work on most recently? 

Rafiu: The latest one was Intercontinental Maldives Maamunagau. 

Hotel Insider: Did you have a meeting with the stakeholders on that project?

Rafiu: Yes, with the nearby islands and nearby resorts as well. It is in fact a regulatory requriment stipulated in the EIA process. 

Hotel Insider: Did you have a look afterwards to see how things are going now?

Rafiu: Yes. We do check because those are structures that we have done. We do have a look at it as well. But after the construction period there is a one-year defects liability period. So, during that time we maintain the structures.

Hotel Insider: How do you ensure the longevity and durability of your structures?

Rafiu: Our coastal protection structures’ durability and longevity is our highest priority. To achieve this, we do a thorough job of designing, construction and maintenance. We incorporate appropriate materials and techniques for that specific location. We also conduct regular inspections and maintenance during the defects liability period and before that as well. We incorporate contingency plans and management strategies as well. For example, if the groynes are done, there will be a maintenance plan as well. So, on one side, there will be more sand, but in the south west monsoon that sand will be shifted to the other side as well. 

Hotel Insider: Is there a challenge you face while dealing with government authorities right now?

Rafiu: Time-frame is the only challenge but otherwise the approval process should not have much issues. Sometimes it takes two months or three months. 

Hotel Insider: To get the approval?

Rafiu: Yes. The entire process, actually. The EIA takes a lot of time, so to get those approvals it takes time. 

Hotel Insider: Are you working on anything unique or new at the moment? 

Rafiu: Yes. We’re conducting research into maintaining the beach of resorts consistently and regularly. Right now, we are working on finding a solution to keep the pipes laid for sand pumping within the island. So maybe if this works, then during the operation, you don’t need to bring the heavy machinery to the island, and you don’t need to close the guest villas.

Hotel Insider: You’ve also mentioned the Dubai project. Can we talk about that a bit before concluding?

Rafiu: We are providing coastal protection for Zuha Islands. We make geo bag revetments, a harbour for them, and rock boulder groynes. We conducted the coastal design work for them as well. This project is on-going, and we’re happy with our progress so far. We see that there are a lot of opportunities in the World Islands. 

Hotel Insider: Thank you, Rafiu.