Kolhufushi to undergo multi-million dollar make-over

Islanders from Meemu atoll Kolhufushi will have their homes rebuilt in a multi-million dollar make-over after five years of living in temporary shelters following the 2004 Asian tsunami.

The government will use money from a US$15 million Abu Dhabi Fund for the project which will see the reconstruction and renovation of 168 houses, said Dr Mohamed Shareef, deputy minister of housing, transport and environment. Shareef added that the fund will also help pay for renovation on other tsunami-ravaged islands.

The Kolhufushi project will see the construction of a water and electricity network as well as a sewerage system, along with the harbour that was built by the former government.

Shareef said the government had conducted a survey asking every household what they thought was required for the reconstruction.

Reconstruction will get underway next March, he said, as the project has to be opened up to an international bidding process.

“The government will rebuild whatever has been damaged,” he said, explaining that no new houses would be built.

Councillor Mohamed Waheed said that many of the island’s 1,200 residents were living in temporary shelters made of plywood and cement while others still lived in their own houses “in difficult conditions”.

For now, electricity and oil is provided at no charge to the islanders, he said.

Waheed said that during the consultation process, islanders were given the option of having their new homes built in three different styles.

“The previous government also made a lot of promises to the people. The Red Cross people came to the island four or five times but there were a lot of problems. They even finalised plans,” he said.

“There was a conflict between the people and the government. There was an internal war on the island and they couldn’t do it,” he added.

Kolhufushi was one of the islands worst-hit by the tsunami with 16 deaths and extensive damage to the island’s infrastructure.

But the British Red Cross halted reconstruction in January 2007 after the government and islanders failed to come to an agreement over the location of the new houses.

Shareef said islanders were displeased with the organisation’s assessment that only 55 houses were required.

“But building houses is one of President Nasheed’s pledges which is why he will make this a priority,” he said.