Monorail to be included in Hulhumalé phase two development

Hulhumalé Development Corporation (HDC) Chairman Hassan Ziath has revealed that the next phase of Hulhumalé’s development will include a monorail to Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

In an interview with Haveeru, Ziath explained that the monorail would be designed to serve the growing number of tourists visiting guest houses in the capital’s suburb.

“Even now, 80 percent of tourists who visit Hulhumale are transit passengers. If we make it more convenient for them to travel to Hulhumale, it would increase injection of foreign currency into economy,” he told the paper.

Hulhumalé is currently home to 10 of the Maldives’ 199 registered guest houses, and is connected to the airport island of Hulhulé by a causeway allowing buses to take passengers between islands.

“It would be a big developmental step, especially if we are able to facilitate more activities targeting tourists,” said Ziath.

Reclamation for phase two of the island’s development would begin next month, he told Haveeru. The work – awarded to Belgian company Dredging International – will expand the size of the artificial island from the current 188 hectares to 410 hectares.

The financing of the US$60 million project will rely largely on loans from the Bank of Ceylon.

Ziath said that experts had advised a waterway be maintained between the two reclaimed areas, with four 50 metre bridges planned to connect the two. The most prominent of the government’s proposed ‘mega projects’ involves a bridge connecting the main island of Malé with Hulhumalé.

The HDC head explained that the island – already envisioned by President Yameen as a ‘Youth City’ with modern industry and facilities – will also include a tourist island and additional city hotels.


Government exploring options for Hulhumalé reclamation project

The government is exploring options to commence the second phase of the Hulhumalé development project in the near future with Netherland’s Royal Boskalis Westminster a possible partner for the land reclamation component, Housing Development Corporation (HDC) Managing Director Suhail Ahmed has said.

Speaking to reporters yesterday (May 12) following activities to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Hulhumalé being declared an inhabited island, Suhail noted that a Boskalis dredger was currently in the Maldives.

“So that is also an option the government is considering that I know of. We are considering all options. [But] at the moment it is difficult to give a date,” Suhail said.

Boskalis has recently been accused of committing “serious environmental crimes” in the Maldives by a local environmental NGO after the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) found that regulations were violated in the Baa Eydhafushi reclamation work.

Boskalis was awarded a US$37 million four-island reclamation project by the government this year. The company has reclaimed 20 hectares in Dhaalu Atoll Meedhoo in March and 33 hectares in Baa Atoll Eydhafushi last week.

Work is ongoing on Kaafu Atoll Thulusdhoo while a date for reclamation in Dhaalu Atoll Kudahuvadhoo has not yet been announced.

Meanwhile, in January, HDC accepted bids from six companies – including Boskalis – for the second phase of the Hulhumalé development project, which involves reclaiming 230 hectares of land for development of further residential and commercial properties.

While the population of the artificial island is presently 30,000, Hulhumalé’s capacity is expected to increase to 100,000 with the completion of the second phase.

In July last year, HDC “conditionally awarded” the US$60 million reclamation project to Belgium-based Dredging International. The company however withdrew due to financial constraints.

Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz told local media this week that the government hoped the reclamation project could commence in July with a decision by the Economic Council expected in the next two weeks.

“Youth village”

Developing a “youth village” in Hulhumalé with a population of 50,000 was a key campaign pledge of President Abdulla Yameen.

Speaking at an inauguration ceremony for the land reclamation project in Thulusdhoo earlier this week, President Yameen said the government’s objective was to relocate people from small islands in the atolls to Hulhumalé.

Economic opportunities in small islands were limited due to their size and isolation, he added.

The government hoped youth from smaller islands would migrate to Hulhumalé as well as other islands selected for land reclamation, Yameen said.

In April, Yameen said the HDC’s development plans were being revised to achieve the new administration’s goals.

The vision for the youth city includes a “technopolis park” as well as entertainment and sports facilities, he said, in addition to facilities for the tourism and fisheries industries.

“The youth village will not involve only housing [projects]. It will also include other projects related to the youth village such as the creation of light industries to provide job opportunities, as well as arrangements for food and beverages required by modern youth and restaurant facilities for [fast food],” he said.

HDC meanwhile organised an informal function yesterday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Hulhumalé’s habitation with a parade and children’s activities.

Hulhumalé schools and service providers participated in the activities.

HDC MD Suhail told the press that a formal event is being planned for a late date, which would recognise the contribution of various parties to the island’s development.


Six hundred flats awarded to police and military

Government authorities have awarded 600 apartments to Maldives Police Service (MPS) and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) personnel this week, including to Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz and senior police officers.

The housing development projects – providing 300 apartments for MPS, and 300 for MNDF officers – are being jointly managed by the government-owned Housing Development Corporation (HDC) in conjunction with the Police Cooperative Society (POLCO) and the MNDF co-operative SIFCO.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has described the awards as a continuation of the patronage policies that prevailed under the 30 year autocracy of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Under the MPS’s MVR580 million (US$37.6 million) ‘Blue’s Housing Project’ 210 three-bedroom and 90 two-bedroom apartments will be built.

The housing scheme was described as being important for the maintenance of the police force’s welfare by Commissioner Riyaz during the project’s foundation laying ceremony in March. Acting Home Minister Ahmed Shafeeu presented recipients with the official documents yesterday (September 2).

Apartments were awarded to officers with at least 20 years of service and based on a points system used in other housing schemes, Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz told local media.

The awarding of flats marks the beginning of the POLCO project, which is seeking private investment for a further 150 apartments, said Commissioner Riyaz during Monday’s ceremony.

Last month, 50 apartments on Hulhumale’ were handed over to police officers by President Dr Mohamed Waheed, who expressed hope that more housing would be made available exclusively for police and military officers.

Since the controversial transfer of presidential power involving elements of the police force, 1000 officers have been promoted and 110 new officers were hired. More recruits have been sought for a “special constabulary” reserve force, a loan scheme has been established for officers, and arrangements have been made for officers and their families to receive cheap accommodations and medical treatment in Sri Lanka.

The Maldives Police Service had not responded to Minivan News’ enquiries at time of press.

MNDF flats

Meanwhile, the government has re-started construction of 300 housing units on Hulhumale’, specifically for MNDF officers.

President Waheed, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, and senior MNDF officials laid the foundation stone for the apartment complex during a ceremony held on Hulhumale’ yesterday.

The apartments will be given to female officers who had not been previously awarded housing units, as well as to retired officers, the MNDF told local media.

Once constructed, the housing units would provide MNDF personnel and their families “adequate accommodation” as many are currently “living under a degree of hardship, having to rent their living spaces,” Waheed said during yesterday’s ceremony. Nazim added that the project would provide facilities such as playgrounds, a swimming pool, and a gym for residents.

President Waheed also awarded 50 apartments to MNDF personnel and their families last month, although seven of these flats had yet to be assigned.

Waheed noted during yesterday’s ceremony that the provision of shelter for military personnel was not an act of kindness, but rather a government obligation.

“The development and welfare of personnel should be improved in accordance with financial capability of the government, and the flats awarded today provides evidence of that fact,” Defence Minister Nazim stated at the time.

In April 2012, MNDF officers were given two years of allowances in a lump sum, which amounted to MVR 150 million (US$10 million) for the institution.

The Maldives National Defence Force was also not responding to enquiries at time of press.

“Patronage” continues: MDP

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) believes the award of 600 housing units to MNDF and MPS officers is a continuation of the patronage system established during former President Maumoon Gayoom’s 30-year autocratic rule.

“In the light of extensive exposes, such ‘patronage’ is familiar to voters from the single party dictatorship of Gayoom and I believe they will simply say to each other ‘I told you so’,” MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today (September 3).

The MDP previously raised concerns about whether the already constructed flats – which it contends forms part of the “Veshi Fahi” Male’ (decongestion) project launched under the previous government in 2011 – were being given to the “needy” and most deserving.

Ghafoor said it was “very concerning” that police should be given flats exclusively, to the detriment of teachers, doctors and other civilians. He also questioned how officers themselves had been selected for the process.

While some of the officers may have deserved the housing, there was concern that some officers involved in last year’s mutiny had been rewarded with flats, claimed Ghafoor.

Last month, President Waheed requested parliament approval to obtain a US$29.4 million loan from the Bank of Ceylon to finance the government’s budget and manage cash flow.

The Ministry of Finance and Treasury was seeking to secure the loan as a way to “enforce” the 2013 budget approved by parliament, stated a letter from the President’s Office read during a parliament session held on August 13.


HDC to take action over violations of Veshi Fahi lease agreement

Owners of 1000 flats provide under the Veshi Fahi Male’ (decongestion) project will face disciplinary action if found to have violated an agreement on leasing their property, the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) has warned.

The HDC has expressed concern that some flat owners were believed to have violated their agreements by leasing their properties to third parties without first having fully completed outstanding payments on the flats, local media has reported.

Local media also reported that advertisements have appeared online to lease properties recently sold under the Veshi Fahi programme.

According to Sun Online, the HDC has warned that any property owner leasing a flat provided under the Veshi Fahi scheme before fully completing payments to the corporation was in violation of their lease agreement.

The corporation said it would not be responsible for any losses to a proprietor or tenant incurred as a result of disciplinary action taken against them over a breach of contract.


Belgian group “conditionally awarded” Hulhumale’ second phase reclamation contract

The Housing Development Corporation (HDC) said it has “conditionally awarded” a contract to Belgium-based company Dredging International to undertake the second phase of reclamation work on the island of Hulhumale’.

HDC Deputy Managing Director Mohamed Shahid today told Minivan News that financing on the contract was still in the process of being finalised at present on the project, with the bid price “more or less” anticipated to be about US$59 million.

Shahid added that a total cost of the project could not be given until certain technical requirements related to the expansion project were finalised.

Local media has previously reported that the HDC project to reclaim 230 hectares of land on Hulhumale’ suitable for residential use would cost an estimated US$60 million, with six foreign parties reportedly expressing interest earlier this year. The development is anticipated to be the largest project of its kind in the Maldives.

Shahid said that with most of the housing planned for the first stage of the development on Hulhumale’ now complete, a second stage would begin soon to reclaim land for the further development of residential and commercial properties that would be managed by the HDC.

A source with knowledge of the project today confirmed that representatives for Dredging International were expected to arrive in the country in the next two to three weeks to begin inspections of the project area before work could commence.

Local newspaper Haveeru meanwhile reported that the second reclamation phase was expected to take about one and a half years to complete.  The work will include reclaiming land presently used for the Club Faru resort, an island property sharing the Hulhumale lagoon closed earlier this year in anticipation of the project.

The Maldives government earlier this month announced it was nearing an agreement to move ahead with the second phase of reclamation work, despite claiming weeks earlier that the project could face continued delays due to limited financing.

The claims were made as the government also this month entered into discussions with Saudi Arabia over securing a US$300 million credit facility for several purposes including “budget support”.

Despite the state’s financial concerns, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said the agreement would see work commence on a second phase of land reclamation in Hulhumale’ “as soon as possible”.

The development of Hulhumale’ near Male as a residential area was originally intended to reduce congestion in Male – one of the most crowded cities in the world, with an estimated 55,000-60,000 people per square kilometre.


31 companies express interest in Hulhumale’ residential development

The Housing Development Corporation (HDC) has said 31 parties have expressed interest in developing residential complexes and row house units on the island of Hulhumale’, according to local media.

The HDC said the interested parties have been invited to submit their bids during a special meeting scheduled for next week – with the best seven proposals then being chosen, Sun Online has reported.

Under the bidding process, three of the seven overall plots of land are set aside to be developed as mixed-use residential complexes, with the remainder of plots being used for row housing.