Araam Travels asks government to reconsider cancellation of Farukolhu airport deal

Araam Travels has asked the government to reconsider its decision to cancel an agreement made with the company to develop an airport on the uninhabited island of Farukolhu in Shaviyani atoll.

Former Health Minister Mariyam Shakeela’s husband Mohamed Ibrahim Didi’s Simdi Company reportedly has a major stake in Araam Travels.

An official from Araam told newspaper Haveeru that the government breached the terms of the contract by terminating the agreement on the grounds that the island was an environmentally sensitive area.

He added that the tourism ministry has not responded to a letter from the company seeking renewal of the agreement. If the agreement is not renewed within 60 days, the official said Araam would sue the government.

He noted that the company won a bid to develop an airport on the island and that the cancellation came after an investor was secured.

The agreement was signed in June 2013 by the administration of former President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

In June this year, Environment Protection Agency Director General Ibrahim Naeem told Minivan News that the island’s ecosystem would be damaged by the airport development.

Farukolhu has extensive mangroves and is a nesting ground for several species of birds. Sharks and rays frequent the island’s bay for breeding.

Araam was awarded Gaaf Alif Atoll Innahera Island for resort development under a public-private partnership agreement to subsidise the airport venture.

The US$4 million project involved reclaiming 1.8 hectares from the island’s mangrove sites to construct an airport runway. Generators, desalination plants, sewerage, drainage facilities, and a jetty were also planned.