Malé pedestrianised zones to be piloted on February 15

A pilot project to establish vehicle-free zones in the capital Malé will be introduced on February 15, authorities have revealed.

Speaking at a joint press conference with the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure and the Transport Authority of Maldives, housing minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu said the scheme will see the closure of Heena Goalhi and Raiyvilla Magu in Henveiru ward to vehicles, including bicycles.

“We will also establish special parking zones for people from houses on these roads, special permits will be given to them to park in these parking zones”, Muizzu explained.

President Abdulla Yameen has previously pledged to ban traffic in narrow lanes in Malé in order to ease congestion in the densely crowded city of 130,000 people, allowing space for children to play.

Transport Authority chairman Abdul Rasheed Nafiz said that the measures would need to go hand-in-hand with a reduction in the number of vehicles in order to find long-term solutions to traffic congestion.

Although the government has not finalised the measures, Nafiz said that current proposals included the halting of vehicle registration renewal for vehicles older than 15 or 20 years, with new vehicle registration open only allowed as older vehicles are taken out of use.

“The new slots will go to the highest bidder. We think this is the most fair manner in which we can do this,” Nafiz said.

Muizz today noted that a ministry survey had shown that some areas involved in the pedestrianisation scheme have storage facilities and garages, but that those businesses will be required to load and unload goods by parking outside the pedestrianised areas.

People who park their two wheeled vehicles inside their homes will be allowed to walk their vehicles to the houses inside the no-vehicle areas.

“Physical obstructions will be put in place and traffic police will be monitoring the area to ensure vehicles do not enter. We will ensure there is enough space for wheelchairs and such,” said Muizzu.

According to the ministry, the pilot project will continue with the closure of more roads in all wards along with Henveiru – including Galolhu, Machchangoalhi and Maafannu – until June 8.

Nafiz explained that the stickers assigned to vehicle owners of the residences in the pedestrianized zones will be given free of charge and must be displayed.


Road Development Corporation contracted to build two roads in Feydhoo

The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure has contracted the Maldives Road Development Corporation to build two roads in Feydhoo, Addu City.

At an event held at the ministry for signing of the contract today, Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Mohamed Muiz revealed that the project is worth MVR7.9 million.

According to Muiz, the corporation will be building Rahdhebai Magu and Bandharu Mathee Magu, with work commencing as soon as the environmental impact analysis of the project is completed.


Housing minister hopes to sign amended TATA contract next week

Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muiz has expressed hope that the amended contract with Indian infrastructure giant TATA Housing regarding the construction of two apartment complexes can be signed next week.

“Based on the most recent communication, we estimate that the amended contract will be signed next week, that is if no further reasons for delays come up,” Muiz told local media.

He stated that the company was expected to commence work on the two sites within a period of 45 days after the signing of the contract, and to complete the projects within a year.

The deal – first signed in 2010 – has faced repeated delays after successive governments sought amendments to the original contract.

“In addition to this project, there is also work on an additional 150 flats that need to be started,” Muizzu said yesterday.

The minister explained that previous delays in signing the agreement had occurred due to the actions of TATA Housing.

After deliberation by the cabinet’s economic council in July, the Housing Ministry had announced intentions of resuming the projects under a revised contract.

The government of Maldives contracted Apex Realty Pvt Ltd – a joint venture between TATA Housing Development and SG 18 Realty – to construct residential apartment complexes on four separate sites in capital Malé city in May 2010.

Work commenced on the Gaakoshi site and former Arabiyya School premises, but was later halted due to pending resolution of numerous contractual issues.

While reasons suggested for the delay included shortages in construction materials and the incumbent government’s reclamation of land plots included in the original deal, TATA was reported in Indian media as expressing concern that local politics were endangering their investments.

Apex Realty also released a press statement in May 2014 indicating its intention to commence work on the apartment complexes within 45 days of getting the final approval from the government of Maldives for the amended contract.

“We are committed to the Maldives project and can start the project within 45 days after the final nod is received from the Housing Ministry and contract amendment is signed,” Apex Realty Director Sandeep Ahuja stated at the time.


Harbour construction on-going in 48 islands, says housing minister

Harbour construction is on-going in 48 islands while work is expected to begin in a further 10 islands during the year, Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muiz informed parliament yesterday.

Appearing for minister’s question time, Muiz said projects for six islands have been sent to the tender board last week.

“Our hope is to solve the problem in the next year or so for all islands facing embarking and disembarking difficulties. God willing, we will achieve this,” he said.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mariya Ahmed Didi had asked Muiz how many harbours have been constructed since the current administration took office in November.

The former MDP chairperson said 58 harbours were constructed during the three years of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration.

Kuribee and Nellaidhoo harbours

Muiz was summoned to respond to a question tabled by MDP MP for Vaikaradhoo, Mohamed Nazim, concerning harbour construction on two islands in his constituency.

Nazim noted that President Abdulla Yameen had pledged to expand the Kuribee harbour and that work had stalled on the Nellaidhoo harbour.

Muiz explained that construction began in Kuribee in 2011 for a 300-feet long and 150-feet wide harbour while the harbour in Nellaidhoo was to be 400-feet long and 150-feet wide.

Both projects were awarded to the Works Corporation Ltd (WCL) under contractor finance rules with the government-owned corporation providing equipment and material, he said, which then subcontracted Heavy Force Pvt Ltd for MVR21.5million (US$1.3 million).

However, construction stalled over difficulties faced by WCL in providing reinforcement boulders and the subcontractor stopped work on July 2012 after dredging and quay wall construction.

Of the 34 projects awarded to WCL in 2010 and 2011, an audit found that the government canceled 24 after the corporation failed to commence work. WCL had completed only one infrastructure project.

In late 2012, former President Dr Mohamed Waheed dissolved WCL and formed an office called public works under the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure.

The public works division subcontracted Heavy Force to carry out the remaining work, Muiz continued, and agreed to provide equipment and material through the State Trading Organisation (STO).

“However, STO also faced difficulties providing reinforcement boulders and the work stalled for about 14 months with Heavy Force unable to continue,” he said.

Project changes

The present administration subsequently changed the project to a normal material and labour contract – “as is done in other islands” – and subcontracted Heavy Force for a cost of MVR36.3 million (US$2.3 million) in February this year, he revealed.

Muiz stressed that the decision was made based on the “counsel and advice” from elders and councillors from both islands.

As Kuribee islanders had requested widening the harbour to 200-feet and President Yameen had pledged to do so during a campaign trip, Muiz said the old quay wall had to be rebuilt with an additional 50-feet dug into the island.

Muiz said further “variations” would be undesirable as the project has been costly.

Public finance regulations stipulate a 10 percent limit for variations to projects, he explained, adding that the tender board only allowed exceptions on rare occasions.

On the stalled project in Nellaidhoo, Muiz said the both the contractor and supervising staff from the ministry had said that construction was proving difficult due to strong ocean currents.

The ministry and the contractor decided to build the outer seawall first, Muiz revealed, which is expected to begin in a month.

“Our target is to finish the harbours on both islands during this year,” he said.

In a follow-up question, however, MP Nazim said Kuribee islanders wanted the length of the harbour increased as well.

In response, Muiz said additional changes could be made in another phase after completing the project and “seeing how it is being used.”

Muiz also offered updates to a number of other MPs about harbour construction for islands in their constituencies. While harbour construction usually takes 12 months, he explained that delays were often caused by shortage of material.


Dharubaaruge reopens after renovation

The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure reopened the Dharubaaruge convention centre in Malé on Thursday (August 7) following renovation and repair work.

Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz told the press at an opening ceremony that the project had cost MVR5 million (US$324,254).

Muiz explained that extensive repair work was needed for the convention centre as the roof leaked when it rained, the stairs were dilapidated, and the walls were crumbling.

In addition to repair work and a new paint job, Muiz said glass panels, wall fabrics, and carpets have been replaced.

The ministry has also decided to make changes to rental prices for leasing Dharubaaruge halls for private functions, Muiz continued, while food and drink would not be allowed in the Rannabadheyri, Hiriya, and Hakura halls.

In May, following a long-running dispute over jurisdiction and ownership, the housing ministry took over Dharubaaruge from the Malé City Council, with police deployed to change locks.

The convention centre was constructed ahead of the SAARC summit held in Maldives in 1990.


Fenaka Corporation commissioned to build sewerage system for Kudahuvadhoo housing units

Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure has contracted Fenaka Corporation to establish a sewerage system in the housing units under construction in the island of Kudahuvadhoo in Dhaalu atoll.

The 53 units are dedicated to providing housing for residents of Kudahuvadhoo who were relocated from the small island of Vaanee in the same atoll.

The agreement for the project was signed by Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz and Fenaka Corporation Managing Director Mohamed Nimal at a meeting on Wednesday (July 16).

Under the agreement, Fenaka has to complete setting up the sewerage system within a period of 120 days. The project is financed by the state budget and is estimated to cost MVR4.01 million (US$26,0052).

Appearing for minister’s question time at Tuesday’s sitting of parliament, Muiz informed MPs that the housing units would be awarded to the former residents of Vaanee after formalities are completed by the Kudahuvadhoo island council and Dhaalu atoll council.


MRDC contracted to build roads in Fonadhoo

The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure has contracted the Maldives Road Development Corporation to build nine main roads in the island of Fonadhoo in Laamu Atoll.

The project is estimated to cost MVR47 million (US$3 million) which is funded for in the state budget.

The roads are to be built with tar, while the first phase will see the construction of pavements in all nine roads.

As per the agreement, the project is to be completed within 18 months after the work commences.


Housing Ministry issues seven day ultimatum for National University to vacate Jamaaluddeen building

The Housing Ministry has sent a seven day notice to the Maldives National University (MNU) to vacate the old Jamaaluddeen School building, which houses the university’s Faculty of Sharia and Law (FSL), Faculty of Arts (FA) and Centre of Continuing Education (CCED).

Speaking during a press conference on Thursday, Housing Minister Mohamed Muiz said the notice was given following a cabinet decision on the matter. He added that the Attorney General had also advised the government in favor of the decision.

“The building that the National University is currently using is very old and no longer safe to carry out any activity. That is why I submitted the matter to the cabinet,” he said.

Muiz said the building should be vacated immediately as it was unsafe for students to study there.

“The government will not be responsible for any damages incurred by students, lecturers or anyone who uses the building. We have told them to vacate the building and remove their property as well,” he said.

Muiz said his ministry had repeatedly requested the MNU Council vacate the building, even after another building was shown to them.

Minister Muiz claimed that the government intends to demolish the building as soon as possible after MNU vacates it.

Speaking to Minivan News, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Maldives National University Dr Fayyaz Ali Manik confirmed that the university had received the letter from Housing Ministry.

“We have received the letter. However, it is not a very easy decision to make. We don’t have any choice but to stay in this building,” he said.

Fayyaz said the University had requested the government find an alternative venue to house the faculties that are currently in old Jamaaluddeen building, and denied claims by the Housing Minister that alternative premises were offered to the National University.

“We have not been given any other building. They never mentioned it,” he said.

Fayyaz reiterated that a final decision on whether to move should be decided by the university council.

“I think we got the letter this afternoon. So it would be up to the university council to decide on the matter. The council includes people who are not currently working in the university. So it may take some time to decide the matter,” he explained.

Speaking to Minivan News, President of the Law Students Society (LSS) Student association of Faculty of Sharia and Law, Mauroof Ahmed, said the students were very concerned about the issue as it directly affected their studies.

“This morning we got the news that the Housing Ministry has ordered MNU to leave this premises within seven days, and if the university fails to do so, that they will evict us by force,” he said.

“Our concern is not over leaving this place, but we want an alternative place where we can continue our studies,” he said.

Mauroof added that the LSS were planning to take their concerns to relevant authorities through student petitions.

“I even strongly believe that the FSL building is not in good shape. Every day we are putting our lives at risk by going there to study. But then again the housing ministry can’t just order us to empty the place in seven days without providing us with an alternative building,” said another student.

The Maldives National University was initially formed in 1998 as the Maldives College of Higher Education (MCHE). The institution was established to rationalise resources and assure the quality of all existing post-secondary government institutes.

In 2011 the MCHE went on to become the country’s first university, formed under the Maldives National University Act.

In November 2012, MNU announced that it would be launching the first PHD programs offered in country. The subjects offered include law and pedagogy. The university has also announced that it will also be launching programs on political science in 2013.