President Mohamed Nasheed has said that Male’ “will not survive without some solution to its housing, some solution to its congestion, some solution to the amount of oil that we are importing everyday.”
Nasheed was speaking at a press conference yesterday to launch the second phase of the Gulhi Falhu development project, attended by the Danish Ambassador Freddy Svane.
The first street of the US$600 million Gulhi Falhu development project, intended to reduce the congestion of Male’, will be called Copenhagen Avenue.
The project involves the reclamation of 40 hectares of land on which will be constructed 2500 housing units. The new landmass will be connected by bridge to Villingili on completion of the second stage of the project and eventually, Nasheed said, joined to Male’ via a bridge from the tsunami monument to Vilingili.
“We have one long stretch of road that starts from the tsunami monument in Male’, and ends at Thilafalhu, which is right next to Giraavaru, which is very far away,” he said. This road would be called Copenhagen Avenue, in recognition of the support of the Danish government.
The houses built by the project’s Global Projects Development Company will be constructed in an environmentally-friendly manner, in partnership with US company Red Dot. Red Dot will construct a solar park which will provide electricity to the new residential and industrial districts.
Nasheed also said that a campus for the recently inaugrated Maldives National University would also be constructed on Gulhi Falhu.
“[Gulhi Falhu] is our showpiece development, our showpiece community and we are quite confident that we will be able to use the land by, hopefully end of next year or early 2013,” President Nasheed said.
Development, the President added, was not measured in concrete.
“During the last two months, I have visited more than 130 islands and very often I am given a shopping list. ‘President; we need a harbor, we need a sewerage system.’
“They [say they] need a water system and they also like a lot of concrete. I have been consistently trying to tell everyone that development is not measured in concrete. It is measure by what we know and what we understand. It’s a phenomenon that happens to a person, not to a country. If we want to develop, we will have to develop our minds. We will have to broaden our minds. We will have to be able to think outside the box, find solutions and fix problems.”
Projects such as Gulhi Falhu would not save the world, Nasheed said, “but we like to think that if we can become an example, the rest of the world can have a look at it and people can actually see and understand that it is working. So in very many senses, this whole project is a green project, and at the centre of it is a green park.”
Nasheed thanked the Danish government for its support of the undertaking.
“If all goes wrong in the Maldives, of course it is an issue for the Danes,” Nasheed said. “All of us are interconnected. If things go wrong in Denmark it’s going to have huge effects and impacts on us. We must be able to look after each other. That doesn’t mean that we should be asking for aid and grants. No, we are asking, seeking for trade. This is a very good example of trade collaborations and also a very good example of how a friendly country can actually back a flourishing or a democracy that is in the process of making.
Danish Ambassador Svane expressed gratitude for Nasheed’s “tremendous job” in Copenhagen at the COP15 summit, saying that the Maldives was setting a benchmark for global efforts to fight climate change.
However he also agreed that development was as much a state of mind as it was physical infrastructure.
“We can build up all these fancy buildings, towers and so forth, but we need to change the mindset of people,” he said, adding that President Nasheed had played an important role in changing the mindset of many people all over the world.