“Careless contractors” to blame for cracked buildings, says government

Carelessness on behalf of contractors was to blame for large cracks that appeared in several high profile shops in Male’ on Thursday, a investigation by the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) and Housing Ministry has found.

On Thursday evening the foundations of the Seylam building, adjacent to the Agora supermarket on Male’s main road Majeedee Magu, slid due to the construction of Jambuge next door.

Residents living in the building abandoned it and were forced to move to other areas that evening, while police cordoned off the area as people gathered to see the cracks.

Speaking after the incident, Deputy Minister for Environment Dr Mohamed Shareef said that shallow foundations of both buildings had structural weaknesses that caused them to slide when nearby contractors pumped water from underground.

‘’We found out that the Checkmark building [a prominent garment shop next to Agora] had a shallow foundation of 1.3 metres and building next to it had a foundation of 2.5 meters, and when the Jambuge contractors evacuated the water from the foundations, it caused the foundation of the Checkmark building to slide,’’ said Dr Shareef. “The Checkmark building was also constructed very weakly and carelessly.’’

Dr Shareef said although similar incidents could lead buildings to fall, “there was no serious damage caused this time.’’

‘’The government can introduce sophisticated laws, but if people are not implementing it won’t do any good,” he said. “Police and the ministry can’t always observe whenever a building is constructed, and contractors should pay more attention to nearby buildings when constructing take the safety precautions.’’

He suggested that it would be more helpful if the contractors “gained some knowledge about engineering.”

The dense construction of high concrete buildings around Male’ on often shallow poorly-constructed foundations has occasionally led to fears that parts of the city could collapse if too much pressure is placed on the brittle reef.

State Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Ali revealed in May this year that cracks had been discovered in Male’ reef that could potentially cause the reef to collapse.

The cracks in the Malé reef were “serious problems because it is the reef on which we are building this infrastructure.”

In January sheet piles near Nasandura Palace Hotel slid and created a hole on the street outside. Some experts suggested that the cause of the cracks were heavy structures on the reef such as buildings, and warned there would be consequences if heavy structures were built in these sensitive areas.


Government approves project for floating golf course

The Maldivian government has signed a contract with Dutch Docklands of the Netherlands to develop a floating golf course and hotel in the Maldives.

Minister of Trade and Economy Mohamed Rasheed signed the contract on behalf of the Maldives, and Chief Executive Officer Wen Di Cam signed on behalf of Dutch Docklands.

President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed and Ambassador of the Netherlands to the Maldives Leoni Margaretha Cuelenaere attended the ceremony held at the President’s Office on 4 March when the agreement was signed.

Cam said the Docklands was proud to develop the floating centres in the Maldives and the company would seek a good location for the development.

He said the company would start the project as soon as possible after doing the necessary studies.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said the project would be “very beneficial for the country.”

He added that it would increase the number of tourists visiting the country.

”Most of our resorts do not have a golf centre due to lack of space,” Press Secretary Zuhair said, noting that ”Golf has a good market in the world.”

Deputy Minister for Environment Mohamed Shareef said the floating golf centres would be “much better and more environmentally friendly than reclaiming land.”

Shareef noted the floating developments would be stabilised by anchoring.

dutch docklands2
Proposed golf course in the Maldives

”It would not be very harmful for the environment,” he said, ”the only damage is that it will block the sunlight from the stones and corals.”

He added that there were showcases of floating centres made by the same company in Australia.

”They are now developing such centres in the Middle East,” said Shareef. ”We would not compromise our environment for anything.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is responsible for conducting environmental impact assessments, has not yet been consulted on the project according to its director Mohamed Zuhair.

The project would “definitely have negative environmental impacts”, he said, but added that “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.”

Zuhair said once project proposal by Dutch Docklands’ is finished, it will be submitted to the EPA who will then screen the project. The EPA will then provide an environmental assessment report.

“They can only start actual work once they have EPA approval,” he noted.

Director of environmental NGO Bluepeace, Ali Rilwan, said as long as the project was conducted in an environmentally friendly manner he thought it was “very exciting” and “innovative and weird”.

“I don’t think there should be a problem,” he said, “but it depends on how they do it.”