Proposals for the creation of a series of five man-made islands to support leisure developments such as a 19-hole golf course in the Maldives are expected to become a reality by the end of next year, project developers have told UK media.
Combining an underwater club house, subterranean tunnels and private submarines, architects have told prominent UK media that the golf course, estimated to cost £320m (Rf7.6 billion), will be “anchored” to the seabed through the use of cables or telescopic mooring to stabilise the landforms.
Once complete, golfers are expected to begin teeing off on the island’s surfaces by late 2013 -ahead of an official launch proposed for 2015.
The project was first approved back in 2010 under the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed as a means to try and diversify tourism in the country. An agreement was made with the then government to develop floating properties on five lagoons within Kaafu Atoll to include a convention centre and an 18-hole golf course as part of a joint venture agreement.
The UK-based Daily Mail newspaper has reported that European developer Dutch Docklands, which formed a joint venture with the authorities back in January 2011 to raise some US$500 million in funding, has unveiled further designs for the golf course – set to be based “five minutes” from Male’ by speedboat.
“The islands will also be designed for swimmers, divers and even private submarines to enter them from below, and the Dutch firm designing the scheme has said visitors will be able to rent private submarines that can surface right in the middle of their living rooms,” the newspaper reported.
Dutch Docklands, claims to have previously produced floating islands for several purposes including residential properties and jails out of a technology using concrete and polystyrene foam.
Company CEO Paul Van De Camp told the Daily Mail that he had promised the nation’s president that the man-made island developments would be an environmentally friendly project, as well as a solution to potential fears that the low-lying country could face extinction should sea levels rise sufficiently.
“’We have a way of building and sustaining this project that is environmentally friendly too. This is going to be an exclusively green development in a marine-protected area. The first part of the project to be built will be the golf course. This will be the first and only floating golf course in the world – and it comes complete with spectacular ocean views on every hole,” he was quoted as telling the Daily Mail. “And then there’s the clubhouse. You get in an elevator and go underwater to get to it. It’s like being Captain Nemo down there.”
Koen Olthuis, who is working on the project through his Netherlands-based firm, WaterStudio, told the paper that the islands would be constructed outside of the country – potentially in India or the Middle East – a decision he claimed would ensure “no environmental cost to the Maldives”.
“When it comes to the golf course, the islands will be floated into position first and then the grass will be seeded and the trees planted afterwards,” he said.
The Daily Mail added that designers were aiming for the project to be run on renewable energy technology such as solar power, while claiming the construction would be carbon neutral.
Dutch Docklands had not returned calls to Minivan News at the time of press regarding the project.
Minister of tourism, Arts and Culture Ahmed Adheeb and Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal were also not responding to calls.
When the project was first announced back in 2010, the Maldives’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is responsible for conducting environmental impact assessments, said project would “definitely have negative environmental impacts”.
An EPA spokesperson at the time said: “it is not for the EPA to assess the risks of this project at this stage. The contractor [Dutch Docklands] is responsible for finding a suitable consultant to assess the risks.”
At the same time, a spokesperson for local environmental NGO Bluepeace said that as long as the project was conducted in an environmentally friendly manner, the proposals were “very exciting” and “innovative and weird”.
“I don’t think there should be a problem,” a Bluepeace spokesperson claimed, “but it depends on how they do it.”
Since the controversial transfer of power in February that brought President Dr Mohamd Waheed Hassan into office, the present government has pledged to try and transform the Maldives into the world’s largest marine reserve.
The government has claimed it also remains committed to the aims outlined by former President Mohamed Nasheed to make the Maldives a carbon neutral nation by 2020.
Minister of Environment and Energy Dr Mariyam Shakeela was not responding to calls from Minivan News today about the project.