Nasheed pledges to bridge islands in capital and build 12,000 new housing units

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Presidential Candidate, former President Mohamed Nasheed, has pledged he will connect the islands within the Male City via a bridge and will build additional 12,000 housing units should he be elected president in September’s elections.

Nasheed made the remarks during a campaign gathering in the Henveiru ward of Male’ on Tuesday evening.

Speaking during the gathering, Nasheed claimed the MDP believed in interconnecting the islands in order to resolve issues of congestion and over population in the city.

Although located in Kaafu Atoll, Male’ City is not administratively considered a part of the atoll. It currently consists of Male’ Island, Villingili Island, the airport Island Hulhule, Industrial island of Thilafushi and artificially reclaimed islands Hulhumale’ and Gulhi Falhu.

Except for Hulhule and Hulhumale’, the remaining islands are currently interconnected by ferry boats which have at times proven ineffective due to bad weather.

Previous plans

Nasheed had previously during his presidency reiterated the necessity for the government to built a bridge connecting the islands of Male’ and Hulhumale’ – an artificially reclaimed island built to combat the rising population of Male  – claiming that the existing ferry system was insufficient to accommodate the growing populations on both islands.

In December 2011, Nasheed’s cabinet decided to proceed with the construction of a bridge between Male’ and Hulhule, under the Male’ decongestion plans which the government said was intended to provide affordable housing for the people, and resolve other social issues.

Following the ousting of Nasheed’s administration two months later, his successor President Mohamed Waheed announced it had been trying to get a US$150 million loan (MVR 2.31 billion) from Turkey’s Exim bank to fund the project.

“We are presently in discussion with Turkey’s Exim bank to obtain a US$ 150 million loan for this project. The decision has been made to travel to Turkey for this purpose, but the loan is not yet confirmed,” Finance Minister Jihad told local media at the time.

President Waheed’s Housing Minister Mohamed Muizzu earlier said that government had received proposals from several international companies to construct such a bridge.

The Minister at the time claimed that two companies from China, one each from South Korea and Turkey had expressed interest in building the bridge.

“The companies have held discussions with me over building the bridge. The companies have also submitted ways to obtain funds. I hope that the project can begin before too long,” the minister said at the time.

Pledged 12,000 housing units

Nasheed during his speech on Tuesday said his vision was to provide 12,000 new housing units for the people of Male, and stressed that such a project is feasible.

“Our target is to connect Male’, Hulhule, Villingili, Thilafushi and Gulhifalhu and build a road that connects all these islands,” Nasheed said.

He further said that total cost of building the needed bridges stood at around US$100 million, and that it was possible for such a project to be completed through Public Private Partnership (PPP).

The former president highlighted that funds needed to build the 12,000 housing units could be generated through the sale of lands that would be reclaimed from Gulhifalhu and Hulhumale’.

“By reclaiming the land and by selling those lands, this project can be completed. We will make that project a successful project and hopefully by the end of 2015, we will try to build housing units for all those who are currently in need of it,” Nasheed said.

Speaking about the previous Veshi Fahi Male’ de-congestion project which was initiated by Nasheed himself during his presidency, said that he had learnt of many people who wished to see the project expanded during the MDP’s door-to-door campaigns.

Nasheed promised the project would be expanded and enhanced in an MDP-led government, which would provide affordable housing to residents of Male City.

The Veshi Fahi Male’ de-congestion programme was a flagship project of Nasheed’s government under the MDP’s manifesto pledge to provide affordable housing.

The project was launched on November 10, 2010 to ease congestion in the capital and develop the Greater Male’ Region, composed of Hulhumale’, Villingili, Thilafushi industrial island and Gulhifalhu.

Approximately 125,000 people are believed to reside in about 16,000 households in Male’; the total number of households in the Maldives is estimated to be 46,000.

“Once the reclamation of these islands are completed there would be space for more housing units even after building the targeted 12,000 units,” Nasheed said.

“MDP is proposing well-rounded policies. MDP is proposing an opportunity for development, a vision to help the people of this country find a better alternative,” he added.