Bore hole drilling begins for Malé–Hulhulé bridge survey

A team of Chinese technicians began drilling bore holes on the ocean floor today to gather information for the Malé-Hulhulé bridge project.

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, economic development minister Mohamed Saeed, and other cabinet ministers attended an inauguration ceremony for the bore hole drilling at the raalhugadu (surf point) area of the capital this morning.

Housing and infrastructure minister Dr Mohamed Muiz said at the ceremony that information gathered from drilling the holes will be essential for designing the bridge.

Technicians are drilling 29 bore holes that will be six inches wide and 50 metres deep. Four of the bore holes will be on land.

Surveys and feasibility studies ahead of the design process are being conducted with free aid and technical assistance from the Chinese government.

Muiz said the Maldivian government will seek a developer once the designs are finalised. The project will be financed with a soft loan from the Chinese EXIM bank. The government has previously said the project may cost between US$100million and US$150million.

The six-lane bridge will run from Malé’s surf point to the southwest corner of Hulhulé island’s airport runway, Muiz had previously said.

China has said it would “favourably consider financing” the bridge project if the design proves feasible, while President Xi Jinping said he hoped the government would call the bridge “the China-Maldives friendship bridge”.

The government has said construction of the bridge will be completed by 2017.

Speaking at this morning’s ceremony, Adeeb said the current administration is fulfilling its campaign pledges “like a set of firecrackers on fire.”


Seismic survey underway for Malé – Hulhulé bridge

A Chinese team of scientists is conducting a seismic survey of the ocean basin between capital Malé and the airport island for a planned bridge.

Housing minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu last week said the bridge will run from Malé’s surf point, Raalhugandu, to the southwest corner of Hulhulé island’s airport runway.

The Chinese team is to drill 29 boreholes, 59 meters deep, in the ocean basin to see if it can hold the bridge’s foundation pillars.

Designs for the six-lane bridge is expected to be completed by the end of June this year, the government has announced.

China has previously said it would ‘favorably consider financing’ the bridge if the design proves feasible, while President Xi Jinping said he hoped the government would call the bridge “the China-Maldives friendship bridge”.

It is expected to cost between US$100million to US$150million.

Construction of the Malé–Hulhulé Bridge, first slated to begin in 2014, will now start by the end of this year, and will be completed within two years.

The bridge, a key campaign pledge of President Abdulla Yameen, will also connect Malé to its suburb Hulhumalé, an artificial island located behind Hulhulé and connected by a short causeway.

In March, 227 hectares of land were reclaimed in Hulhumalé for a planned ‘Youth City.’


Designs for six-lane airport bridge underway

Designs for a six-lane bridge connecting the capital and the airport are expected to be completed by the end of June this year, the government has announced.

Construction of the Malé–Hulhulé Bridge, first slated to begin in 2014, will now start by the end of this year, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb said today.

China has previously said it would ‘favorably consider financing’ the bridge if the design proves feasible, while President Xi Jinping said he hoped the government would call the bridge “the China-Maldives friendship bridge”.

Adeeb said the total cost of the project will only be known after the design is completed. China and Maldives will then consider options for financing and open a bidding process.

According to the government, a team of 60 people is working on the design. The six mile bridge is to connect the eastern edge of Malé to the western corner of Hulhule, where the airport is located. Land may have to be reclaimed in Hulhulé for the bridge, Adeeb said.

The bridge, a key campaign pledge of President Abdulla Yameen, will also connect Malé to its suburb Hulhumalé, an artificial island located behind Hulhulé and connected by a short causeway.

In March, 227 hectares of land were reclaimed in Hulhumalé for a planned ‘Youth City.’

In February 2014, the economic development ministry announced 19 parties had expressed interest in an initial tender for the bridge, but the tender was cancelled after China expressed interest in the project following a visit by President Yameen in August last year.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had also planned a series of bridges in Male’ atoll when it was in power.


China to “favorably consider” financing Malé-Hulhulé bridge if project proves feasible

China will “favorably consider” providing financial support to the construction of Malé – Hulhulé bridge project, if the venture proves feasible, the Embassy of China has said.

Speaking at a brief press conference at the President’s Office, Charge d’affaires ad interim of China Embassy Mr Liu Qiang revealed details of the MOU signed between China President Xi Jingping and President Yameen Abdulla in September.

He also explained that a Chinese survey team will complete a preliminary feasibility study of the project within 40 days.

The preliminary study will be followed by a project feasibility study. Afterwards, a design plan will be determined and the two governments will explore options to finance the project.

The arrival of the preliminary feasibility study “shows that the Chinese government attaches great attention both to this project and to the friendly and cooperative relations between China and the Maldives,” said Qiang.

President Xi has previously expressed his hope that the bridge would be named the ‘China-Maldives Friendship Bridge’.

“If this is possible engineering-wise, and if nature allows it, we will do it,” Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee said today.

The construction of a bridge was first announced during former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s reelection campaign in 2008. President Mohamed Nasheed also pledged to link Malé to its suburb islands – Hulhumalé, Hulhulé, Villingili, and Gulhifalhu – via a bridge.

A 2011 feasibility study carried out by Ove Arup and Partners Hong Kong explored three options to link Malé and Hulhulé, through Funadhoo Island on the north, or through two different paths on the southeastern side of Malé over the surf point to the edge of the runway on Hulhulé.

The study said a floating bridge would be possible via Funadhoo and a fixed bridge may be possible via Malé’s Raalhugandu area.

The cost of the bridge may run between US$ 70 and 100 million, the study added. Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb revealed last week that the current survey – said to cost $3-4 million – will be covered through Chinese aid, of which 100 million Yuan (around MVR250 million or US$16 million) was pledged in August.

The following month President Xi became the first Chinese head of state to visit the Maldives, signing various MoUs as well as a preliminary contract agreement on the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

During the historic visit, President Yameen told his counterpart that he hoped to increase the number of Chinese visitors threefold before the end of his term. Chinese tourists already represents around one third of the market share.


Government to tender Malé-Hulhulé bridge project next month

The government will announce invitation to tender for the Malé–Hulhulé bridge project in early June, President Abdulla Yameen revealed last night.

Speaking in the Feydhoo ward of Addu City, President Yameen said the company chosen in the bidding process would commence a technical survey upon being awarded the project.

“God willing, before the end of the first two weeks of June, we will tender the bridge project. With that, additional studies needed for the project – that is the direction and extent of ocean currents – will be undertaken by the party awarded the tender,” he explained.

He added that the construction of a bridge connecting the capital and the airport as well as the reclaimed artificial island of Hulhumalé was “a dream” of the current administration.

Yameen also appealed for support and cooperation from the public to successfully implement the government’s infrastructure development projects.

He reiterated calls for the public to ensure cooperation of the People’s Majlis for the executive through their elected representatives.

Yameen said he did not doubt that the development of a “Youth City” in Hulhumalé would solve the problem of high unemployment among youth.

In February, Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed pledged that the Malé – Hulhulé bridge project – which he described as “iconic for the whole region” – would be completed in two years.

Of 19 parties that had expressed interest in the project, Saeed noted that seven were international companies.

First announced as a campaign pledge of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2008, a bridge connecting the congested island of Malé with its relatively spacious suburb was also an aim of Gayoom’s successor Mohamed Nasheed.

In December 2011, the President’s Office revealed that preliminary surveys conducted by international experts had established the viability of the project with an estimated cost of between US$70 million and US$100 million.

Upon assuming office in November 2013, the present administration called for expressions of interest for the project under a public-private partnership contract that would require the selected company to engage in the design, build, financing, maintenance and operation of the bridge.

“Primary objective of the government is to bring a relief to the socio-economic issues arising from the urban congestion that is present in Malé,” the Ministry of Economic Development explained at the time.

Former Minister of Economic Development Mahmoud Razee – a member of Nasheed’s cabinet – meanwhile told Minivan News in February that a bridge would improve local commerce and reduce traffic congestion in Malé.

“There will be a mediation of the traffic because what happens in Malé – in the afternoons and evenings – a lot of the traffic is leisure traffic as motorcycles are out on the road, not to go to any particular place but for the sake of having a ride. If these are connected, the area they are able to mill around is increased by several kilometers,” he explained.

Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony in Hulhumalé last month, President Yameen said that the vision of his administration was to develop the artificial island as a “youth village” with a population of 50,000 people.

Hulhumalé will become “a paradise on earth” for migrants from across the country, he said, whilst economic opportunities would be created by the construction of a bridge connecting the island to the nearby capital city.


Government seeking $150 million loan for Male’ – Hulhule’ bridge

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad has said the government is seeking a $150 million loan for the construction of a bridge between the islands of Male’ and Hulhule’, local media has reported.

Jihad was reported as saying that he will be travelling to Turkey, along with Housing Minister Dr Ahmed Muizzu and senior Finance Ministry officials to continue discussions with Turkey’s Exim bank to obtain the loan.

“We are presently in discussion with Turkey’s Exim bank to obtain a $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,” Jihad was quoted as saying in Sun Online.

“This is a very important project. We have detailed plans, which we will present to them.”

According to local media, the decision to build the bridge was made in December 2011 in order to find a solution to the problem of congestion in Male’.


Housing success a three-part puzzle

The development of housing, industry, and transportation infrastructure is expected to greatly improve the “extreme” situation on Male’, said Infrastructure Development Ambassador Sarangu Adam Manik.

“There are more people in Male who do not have housing than people who do,” he said.

The capital Male’ has a land area of less than two square kilometers but is home to one-third of the country’s population or approximately 125,000 people residing in an estimated 16,000 households; the total number of households in the Maldives is estimated to be 46,000.

With 50,000 people per square kilometer Male’ is the most densely populated city in the world, outdoing Mumbai’s 33,000 people per square kilometre.

President Mohamed Nasheed previously said the “household is the main engine of development.” Making good on this claim, he yesterday conferred land tenure agreements to 20 parties who had applied for housing and housing grants to 27 applicants, saying the government intends to provide housing for all 21,000 applicants to the Veshi Fahi Male’ housing program.

Earlier this year, ten flats were awarded under the same program.

The government originally pledged 10,000 flats.

A statement on the President’s Office website said the program aims “to satisfy the lives of all Maldivian citizens, and augmenting the nation’s economically active population by economically mobilizing nearly 150,000 people.”

Under phase one of the project launched in January, a total of 1,000 parties were invited to apply for the housing scheme. Over 8,000 application forms were submitted on the first day.

The Cabinet also approved related projects including the development of a container park in Thilafushi to incentivise relocating warehouses in Male’ and construction of a multi-purpose local market with modern facilities for residents of Male’.

The programme was launched on November 10, 2010 with the aim of combining the development of Malé, Vilingili, Guli Falhu, Thilafushi, Hulhumalé and Malé International Airport.

Manik said the network of projects  will jointly reduce the stress on Male’.

“Gulhifalhu will help tremendously the housing and economic situation. Thilafushi will  centralise the industrial sector, and the bridge will improve mobility–all components will help the situation on Male’,” he surmised.

The Cabinet yesterday decided to proceed with the plan to construct a bridge between Male and Hulhule, a reclaimed island attached to Hulhumale.

Since Hulhumale’s population is expected to double in the next year as people take advantage of new housing opportunities, mobility will become an issue, Manik said.

“Think about it, you will have two to three thousand flats, each with a family of four or more people on average. That’s eight to twelve thousand people,” he pointed out.

He also noted that the current boat-based system is vulnerable to changes in weather.

Manik said building a bridge was not a new idea. “The previous government proposed it but didn’t find a way to do it. President Nasheed’s ability to think ahead and think strategically means that the new government has found a way to do it. Gayoom’s government talked about it but we never saw a plan.”

Reflecting on public complaints of some infrastructure development programs, Manik surmised that “everybody wants to be the khafir except the khafir.

“Each power is trying to draw new borders, and there are always demarcation problems. People will settle down and things will become more progressive. It takes time to accept a new democracy.”