The sheer speed at which the enormous dredging vessel Queen of the Netherlands has been reclaiming land at various islands has left some islanders open-mouthed with astonishment.
“People were truly in awe,” Hinnavaru Councillor Adam Yousuf told Minivan News.
Yousuf said it had previously taken nine months to dredge six hectares of land in Hinnavaru. The rate of the current reclamation project – 28 hectares of land reclaimed in less than ten days – was hard to believe for most islanders.
Currently Queen of the Netherlands is docked at Haa Dhaal Kulhudhuffushi where, within two weeks, it increased the size of the island by about a third. The growth of the island has left islanders a little disconcerted, Kulhudhuffishi Councillor Jamsheed Mohamed told Minivan News.
“When we wake up in the morning, the island is bigger than we left it the night before,” Mohamed said.
The welcome extended to the reclamation project on Kulhudhuffushi has not been completely unadulterated, however. The impact of the island’s rapid expansion has left the fishermen more than just disorientated.
“One week the harbour was on the West of the island, where it had been for generations. The next, it had moved to the north west,” Kulhudhuffushi fisherman Mohamed Iqbal, Dhinaashaa, told Minivan.
Added to the disconcerting switch is the lack of facilities at the new harbour.
“It is very far from where people live, which means that anybody wanting to buy fish has to walk a longer distance on Kulhudhuffushi than they ever have had to before,” Iqbal explained.
The newly reclaimed area is also far from residential areas, and does not have any electricity either, which makes running a fish market there extremely difficult, he said.
Councillor Mohamed told Minivan that while all the islanders are not happy with the way things are at the moment, they are all expecting them to improve. All islanders had wanted the new land.
“We are all hoping that things will change soon. We are hoping to have a new harbour within less than a year”, Councillor Mohamed said.
Bad weather, combined with unfamiliarity with the new harbour, caused an oil carrier accident as it approached the island on Sunday night.
The state-funded Rf109 million project to reclaim Kulhudhuffushi began on 21 September 2010, and is being carried out by Netherland’s Boskalis International. The Queen of the Netherlands is a trailing suction hopper dredger in its fleet.