Inhabited islands need to be halved: Housing Minister

Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muizzu has told local media that the number of populated islands in the Maldives needs to be reduced by half as part of a national resettlement policy.

“The inhabited islands in the Maldives need to be reduced. This cannot be attained within one or two days. It can take up to 10 years,” Muizzu was quoted as saying.

The minister reportedly revealed details to carry out this strategy with a combination of subsidies and housing for those willing to move from smaller to larger islands.

Dr Muizzu was not responding to calls at time of press. However he was reported as saying that relocation would only occur if the majority of an island’s population consented to being transferred, requiring cooperation with local councils.

Haveeru today reported that Haa Alif Molhadhoo Island Council had accused the government of informing the council that its population of 400 would be relocated to nearby Dhihdhoo island without prior consultation.

Muizzu has denied this, reiterating the intention to seek consensus on any consolidation projects whilst highlighting the efforts made to facilitate the potential move.

“We are hoping to start a new housing project in Dhihdhoo in the next two months. Those units will be set aside specially for those moving into Dhihdhoo and would be completely free. There’s no need to even pay rent,” he told Haveeru.

There were also protests against the potential transfer of the population of Rinbudhoo in Dhaalu Atoll earlier this month.

With a total population of nearly 350,000, dispersed over 196 inhabited islands spread over a distance of more than 600 miles, the Maldives is one of one of the world’s most dispersed countries.

Dispersed populations and small island communities have been long recognised as key challenges to the sustainable social and economic development of Maldives.

Both the former Minister for the (now defunct) Atolls Development Ministry and current Vice President, Mohamed Waheed Deen, and Special Advisor to the President, Dr Hassan Saeed, have spoken publicly about the economic importance of population consolidation since the new government came to power.

“Without population consolidation we cannot achieve sustainable economic development,” Deen contended, speaking to the media in April just after taking office.

“Population consolidation needs to start so we can deliver public services fairly to all people as well realising economies of scale in delivery. This cannot be just an aspiration; action has to start now,” Hassan explained in a comment piece for local newspaper Haveeru in June.

The Vice President also expressed his long term vision for economically viable population distribution in the country – going far beyond Muizzu’s aim of bringing the country’s inhabited islands to just under one hundred.

“I envision that people of Maldives will live in 25 to 30 islands. Each island will be of twice that of Hulhumale’. Around 60,000 to 70,000 will live on each island. This is a dream I see. I will try to make this dream come true.”

Muizzu yesterday stated his belief that repopulation will enable the government to better provide for people’s basic constitutional rights with regards to medical care, education, housing and travel.

Studies by the Ministry of Planning and National Development for the most recent National Development Plan (NDP) found strong links between social vulnerability and population size.

With higher rates indicating greater vulnerability based on a composite of twelve living standard dimensions, populations of less than 200 had an average of 5.3 on the Human Vulnerability Index (HVI), islands with more than 2000 inhabitants had an average of 2.4, whilst those with over 4000 had an average of 2.1.

The seventh NDP also found that the average income of islands hosting those displaced by the 2004 tsunami rose by 30 percent within 6 months.

Currently, around 130 islands have populations less than a 1000, and others between 1000-6000, while Male’ accounts for one third of the total population, where the density of the population is over 40,000 per square kilometres.

The government’s repopulation policy signifies a renewed ambition to follow through on the much awaited population strategy that has been discussed for a quarter-century, but has fallen short of making any significant outcomes.

Resettlement of nearly 17 islands were reportedly under review during former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s last term in office, but confronted by the 2004 Tsunami and the pre-2008 democratic reforms, population consolidation plans lost emphasis.

The talks ultimately disappeared from the table under the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed, which lobbied for a national transportation network between the islands to boost connectivity and economic progress.


13 thoughts on “Inhabited islands need to be halved: Housing Minister”

  1. I am sold to this guy. I would even vote for him for the President.

    This is the only piece of intelligent and level headed talk that has come out of our politicians, for years.

  2. This has been the aim of government for so many years now. These goals are realizable with sincere commitment and the necessary political will.

    Also parties in Parliament and the "opposition" must agree not to say or do anything that would be counter to the goals of population consolidation.

    Even as I say this, I can see Nasheed or whoever is in the opposition in the future, hopping from island to island, creating unfounded fears about migration and stirring up island communities against the whole idea. Alas, such is the nature of our village politics.

  3. Now is a good time to move to a smaller island, in a few years you'll get a free place to live!!

  4. "the “opposition” must agree not to say or do anything that would be counter to the goals of population consolidation."

    Would that be like doing things such scuttling decentralization efforts such as combining several islands and atolls into provinces or similar administrative regions? If "Nasheed" or the "oppostion" would stoop the that level it would show how bad bad bad they they really are.

    Now when have I seen such bad bad bad behaviour? I tend to forget.

  5. My comment applies to behavior of political parties in general.

    My reference to Nasheed was only due to the fact that he leads the current opposition. Unless our parties agree to be bound by a common idea of the national interest, then the same sort of behavior would be expected from Qayyoom in the opposition or Qasim.

  6. This is total crap. I want to live for as long as I live in Male. And that is, and should be every Maldivian citizen's constitutional right.Engay!

  7. hey We never asked for this!!! we only voted for a better public transport system. not a shit about the whole moving thing. did u guys forget that part??

  8. Please educate the island community not to give up their island and land, and make themselves refugees.

    The giraavaru island people got land in male', look what happened to them, they lived in cramped up shanty town in the westside of male for years, now their island is made a Resort worth millions of dollars, but do they get any benefit
    It Is better to live in those small community islands (which the govt wants to take away) where there is ample space and land for your children to grow and inherit, and tranquility, and future potential. Instead of providing health service and water and sewerage the govet wants to make them refugees.

    The BAAGHEE government, instead of developing these islands they want to make these people refugees and give them 1000 square feet land plot and few rufiyaas to buy them off. The land given to them will be portioned and halved with every new generation until there are 20 people in the family to inherit the 1000sqf land plot.

  9. The last time an island was halved it was by the the Endheri Odi of Utheem Boduthakurufaanu. Seeems he cut right through the middle of an island !!! We maldivians are great. Waheed is gonna cut in half all the inhabited islands. This will also inturn invrease the no of islands in the Maldives.

  10. But why "Half" and not "one third" or "one fourth". I guess Dr Mohamed Muizzu knows why...

  11. ekamu ehves rashakun gadhakamu meehun nubeyleyne dhethoa izzaiytheri vazeeru. mi dhen aratheh thaa!


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