Araam Travels asks government to reconsider cancellation of Farukolhu airport deal

Araam Travels has asked the government to reconsider its decision to cancel an agreement made with the company to develop an airport on the uninhabited island of Farukolhu in Shaviyani atoll.

Former Health Minister Mariyam Shakeela’s husband Mohamed Ibrahim Didi’s Simdi Company reportedly has a major stake in Araam Travels.

An official from Araam told newspaper Haveeru that the government breached the terms of the contract by terminating the agreement on the grounds that the island was an environmentally sensitive area.

He added that the tourism ministry has not responded to a letter from the company seeking renewal of the agreement. If the agreement is not renewed within 60 days, the official said Araam would sue the government.

He noted that the company won a bid to develop an airport on the island and that the cancellation came after an investor was secured.

The agreement was signed in June 2013 by the administration of former President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

In June this year, Environment Protection Agency Director General Ibrahim Naeem told Minivan News that the island’s ecosystem would be damaged by the airport development.

Farukolhu has extensive mangroves and is a nesting ground for several species of birds. Sharks and rays frequent the island’s bay for breeding.

Araam was awarded Gaaf Alif Atoll Innahera Island for resort development under a public-private partnership agreement to subsidise the airport venture.

The US$4 million project involved reclaiming 1.8 hectares from the island’s mangrove sites to construct an airport runway. Generators, desalination plants, sewerage, drainage facilities, and a jetty were also planned.


Government to introduce nationwide sea-ambulance service

The government has announced it is to start a sea ambulance service within two months and expand it nationwide within the year, Haveeru has reported.

In a press conference held to announce the service, Ministry of Defense Mohamed Nazim said it will be initially launched for four regions and later expanded to twenty three zones, covering the whole country. According to Haveeru, the service will be covered under the Aasandha national health insurance scheme.

“The objective is to take patients to a health center instead of bring them to Malé,” Nazim was quoted as saying.

Speed boats under the Ministry of Health, Maldives Police Services and Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) are to be converted into ‘sea-ambulances’ for the service, with enough space for patients and necessary health equipment.

Quoting Health Minister Mariyam Shakeela, Haveeru reported that to this day a health ambulance service was not provided properly and only six out of twenty six speed boats owned by the ministry were usable.

The service will be begin with a government allocated budget, but will depend on funding from the United Nations and the Red Crescent, Shakeela was quoted as saying. According to the minister, the service will create new jobs, where employees will be well trained and covered by a special insurance scheme.

The MNDF will be managing the ambulances and emergency operations will be carried out by MNDF area commands.