Delays in the Thilafushi reclamation project have resulted in only 20 percent of the work being completed, says Managing Director of the government owned Thilafushi Corporation (TCL), Mohamed Latheef.
The Rf323 million ($US21 million) project was awarded to the Heavy Load Maldives company in September 2010, with work beginning in February 2011. The scheme was to involve the reclamation of 157 hectares of land over six months as part of the continued development of an international port for the Thilafalhu Industrial Zone (TIZ). Thilafalhu is the name of the lagoon around which Thilafushi lies.
The TIZ is intended to promote industrial growth in the greater Male’ area by providing facilities on Thilafushi that will attract medium to heavy industries. This will also include plots for large industrial facilities, warehouse facilities, and a roll-on roll-off ferry service.
As well as fostering economic growth it is hoped that this plan can reduce congestion, and thereby increase the quality of life, for the people of Male’, where the nation’s major port is currently situated.
Male’ is one of the most densely populated cities in the world with over 100,000 people per square kilometre.
Latheef stated that only 32 hectares had been reclaimed on Thilafushi by Heavy Load.
“The project is on hold due to issues which we are working with contractors to resolve,” said Latheef. “We hope to resolve these issues in the next one two weeks.”
Latheef said that these problems were both technical and financial.
“The dredger is not currently on site. It has been taken to Sri Lanka for maintenance,” he added.
The project ran into legal difficulties within days of work having started. The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) alleged corrupt practices in the project’s tendering process. The TCL then filed a case against the ACC in the Civil Court arguing that it did not have the authority to order that the work be suspended.
Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Interim Chairman Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik, whose family runs the Heavy Load Maldives company, alleged at the time that the ACC’s charges were a “political trick”, suggesting that elements of the ACC were influenced by opposition politicians.
Representatives of Heavy Load, including Moosa himself, were unavailable for comment at the time of press.
In a similar case, the ACC has attempted, seemingly without success, to halt the work on a new border security system provided by the Malaysian company Nexbis. President of the ACC Hassan Luthfee told Minvan News last week that the ACC has appealed to the Supreme Court to “delineate” the role of the ACC.
Luthfee today said that the Civil Court case was due to be heard in the second week of June whilst the ACC’s original case alleging corrupt bidding practices remains with the Prosecutor General (PG).
Sun Online this week reported that the PG’s office had filed cases against three former TCL board members in relation to the award of the reclamation project to Heavy Load.
Sun also reported last month that the guarantee cheque from Heavy Load, worth 5 percent of the deal’s value, Rf16.1 million (US$1 million), had expired. A spokesman from the Finance Ministry said that a new cheque was required but had not at that time been received, although the company had assured it would be done.
Thilafushi has become infamous internationally in recent months as the ‘ugly face’ of the Maldives owing to the waste management services that the island provides. Both the BBC and France’s Le Monde have covered the topic in recent weeks.
Reclamation of land around the lagoon began in 1992 in order to solve the waste management problems from waste generated in Malé. Since then an increasing number of industrial firms have relocated to plots leased on the island.