China will “favorably consider” providing financial support to the construction of Malé – Hulhulé bridge project, if the venture proves feasible, the Embassy of China has said.
Speaking at a brief press conference at the President’s Office, Charge d’affaires ad interim of China Embassy Mr Liu Qiang revealed details of the MOU signed between China President Xi Jingping and President Yameen Abdulla in September.
He also explained that a Chinese survey team will complete a preliminary feasibility study of the project within 40 days.
The preliminary study will be followed by a project feasibility study. Afterwards, a design plan will be determined and the two governments will explore options to finance the project.
The arrival of the preliminary feasibility study “shows that the Chinese government attaches great attention both to this project and to the friendly and cooperative relations between China and the Maldives,” said Qiang.
President Xi has previously expressed his hope that the bridge would be named the ‘China-Maldives Friendship Bridge’.
“If this is possible engineering-wise, and if nature allows it, we will do it,” Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee said today.
The construction of a bridge was first announced during former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s reelection campaign in 2008. President Mohamed Nasheed also pledged to link Malé to its suburb islands – Hulhumalé, Hulhulé, Villingili, and Gulhifalhu – via a bridge.
A 2011 feasibility study carried out by Ove Arup and Partners Hong Kong explored three options to link Malé and Hulhulé, through Funadhoo Island on the north, or through two different paths on the southeastern side of Malé over the surf point to the edge of the runway on Hulhulé.
The study said a floating bridge would be possible via Funadhoo and a fixed bridge may be possible via Malé’s Raalhugandu area.
The cost of the bridge may run between US$ 70 and 100 million, the study added. Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb revealed last week that the current survey – said to cost $3-4 million – will be covered through Chinese aid, of which 100 million Yuan (around MVR250 million or US$16 million) was pledged in August.
The following month President Xi became the first Chinese head of state to visit the Maldives, signing various MoUs as well as a preliminary contract agreement on the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.
During the historic visit, President Yameen told his counterpart that he hoped to increase the number of Chinese visitors threefold before the end of his term. Chinese tourists already represents around one third of the market share.