Second Phase of Hulhumalé land reclamation project to begin in late December

President Abdulla Yameen has announced that the second phase of the Hulhumalé land reclamation project will begin this month and that all preparatory measures for the reclamation have been taken.

While speaking at a foundation laying ceremony for 704 new flats built with the Chinese loans, President Yameen said that the dredging boat will arrive late December and start work on the reclamation.

President Yameen also said that the reclaimed land will not only be used for social housing projects, but also for opening investment opportunities for potential investors.

“Majority of the reclaimed land will go towards social housing. However, land will be allocated for luxury apartments and apartments for foreigners who wish to settle in the Maldives,” said President Yameen.

The second phase is to feature a theme park, yacht marina, specialized tourism district and various infrastructure aimed at the youth population.


Agreement signed for Hulhumalé phase two reclamation project

A framework agreement was signed between the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and Belgian company Dredging International N.V. on Thursday (July 17) for the US$50 million Hulhumalé phase two reclamation and coastal protection project.

Managing Director Suhail Ahmed signed the agreement on behalf of HDC while Amedeo Peyron, resident manager for the Indian subcontinent, signed on behalf of Dredging International N.V.

Speaking at a ceremony held in Nasandhura Palace Hotel, Suhail explained that a US$30 million loan facility from the Bank of Ceylon and US$20 million from the HDC’s reserves would be used to finance the project.

“Bank of Ceylon has given assurances of providing the loan for this project. So we will be able to begin the project in the next month or so,” Suhail said.

While the dredging and reclamation work would be completed by February 2015, Suhail said the coastal protection work would be completed in December 2015.

HDC revealed last month that the project involves reclamation of 240 hectares of land “with a target population of 100,000 people.”

The corporation said in a press release that development plans for the fully reclaimed artificial island includes residential developments, a business district and “commercial spine,” a light industrial park, a yacht marina and cruise terminal, a knowledge and technology park, a heritage island a tourism district.

“Both Hulhumalé Phase I & Phase II developments are planned in line with the government’s overall vision to bring sustainable youth related developments,” the press release stated.

Dredging International also carried dredging and land reclamation in phase one of the Hulhumalé development project.

Reclamation in the second phase will expand the size of the artificial island from 188 hectares at present to 410 hectares.

According to the company’s website, Dredging International NV was established in 1974 and specialises in “the construction and development of harbours, artificial islands, estuarial dams, canals and inland waterways, dyke construction and reinforcement, beach replenishment and coastal protection, supply of dredged aggregates and salvage activities.”

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

Speaking at a ceremony in Thulusdhoo in May, 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.

Meanwhile, 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.


Week in review: May 10 – 16

The reverberations of the the deputy prosecutor general’s resignation continued to be felt across the criminal justice system this week.

Despite the Supreme Court’s order for confused state prosecutors to return to work, the majority of cases continued to be cancelled as the courts struggled to adjudicate on the leadership vacuum at the PG’s Office.

This confusion was typified by Drug Court Judge Mahaz Ali, who expressed his disagreement with the government’s suggestion that a ‘state of necessity’ existed, enabling the most senior state prosecutor to assume the office’s responsibilities.

While the Supreme Court announced the formation of a committee to review current judicial laws, the judicial watchdog said it would look into Judge Mahaz’s blogging.

Further examination into a large crack in the Meedhoo Island reef will be required as experts admitted that the long-term effects of the 13 metre fissure were unknown.

The discovery was made amid a mammoth 20 hectare reclamation project on the island conducted by Boskalis International. The Dutch company – currently conducting numerous projects in the country – came under this fire week for what local NGOs have called “environmental crimes” during its recent dredging activities.

The accusations did not stop authorities mooting Boskalis as the likely partner for the government’s second reclamation phase of the Hulhumalé development project.

Speaking at the launch of another Boskalis project in Thulusdhoo, President Abdulla Yameen urged the Anti-Corruption Commission to expedite stalled cases concerning infrastructure projects.

Reclamation projects could take on a new urgency should this week’s prediction from climate change experts prove true, as it was revealed that the collapse of antarctic glaciers has the potential to increase sea levels by 1.2 metres in coming centuries.

The completion of a Japanese sponsored solar energy project this week will be scant consolation to pessimists.

Pessimism regarding the buoyancy of the country’s democracy was evident in Transparency Maldives Democracy at Crossroads’ survey this week which revealed extraordinarily high levels of cynicism within the electorate.

Skepticism was also evident at the Human Rights Commission’s ‘National Inquiry on Access to Education for Children with Disabilities’ as parents questioned the state’s efforts to provide education to all.

The Capital Market Development Authority meanwhile was optimistic that the country can be developed into a global financial centre, while the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA)warned that further fiscal “slippages” would undermine the country’s debt sustainability.

The prospect of increased wage expenditure by the government receded once more, however, as the president returned the pay commission bill to the Majlis for the third time this week.

The MMA’s warning was not enough to prevent President Yameen pledging MVR1 million to the national football team, should it reach the last four of the AFC Cup – scheduled to start in Malé and Addu next week.

Visiting football fans who take a liking to the country’s southernmost atoll will soon be able to return to stay in one of the 2000 guesthouse beds that Addu City Council aims to develop via its Guesthouse Tourism Promotion Board.

Finally, suggestions by the US State Department that Maldivian authorities were aware of funds being raised for terrorism abroad were rejected, as were the Maldivian Democratic Party’s suggestions that the extremist ideologies were becoming prevalent within the security services.


Development projects speed up in central atolls

The government has this week signed contracts with Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) for the reclamation of Guraidhoo and Madifushi islands, both in Thaa atoll.

In Guraidhoo, MVR75.2 million (US$4.8 million) will be spent on reclamation of 27.5 hectares of land, while 45 hectares will be reclaimed from Madifushi with a budget of MVR126 million (US$8.1 million).

Meanwhile, the mayor of Addu has said that the city – the country’s second most populated area with over 30,000 inhabitants – is being hit hard by government budget cuts.

Development projects have to be approved by the Ministry of Environment through an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)  -which is reviewed by the EPA. Minivan News has learned that the EIA for the Guraidhoo land reclamation was approved within four working days.

Earlier this month the government signed contracts with Boskalis International for the reclamation of four islands – Eydhafushi, Thulusdhoo, Dhaalu Meedhoo, and Kudahuvadhoo.

The combined projects will cost MVR572 million (US$37 million). The work is expected to begin within a month of signing, and to be completed within 540 days.

Abdulla Sodig has said that the MVR700 million that was approved by the Housing Ministry to be included in the budget for Addu City later disappeared when the government sent the budget to parliament for approval.

“Hithadhoo harbor project that started in 2011 is on halt now, we still need another MVR3.5 million for that. But only MVR1.5million was allocated for that. Similarly, Hulhumeedhoo harbor project is also on halt now,” Sodig said today.

Other projects budgeted for Addu City development include road construction with MVR10 million and MVR25 million for water and sewerage, an amount Sodig claims is insufficient.

Compared to Addu’s large urban population, the average population of the six islands involved in the proposed reclamation projects is approximately 1,300.

Addu City has long been a stronghold of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party – a fact reinforced in recent local council elections, while the six islands involved in the proposed reclamation projects, with the exception of Meedhoo, all gave majority votes to President Abdulla Yameen in the 2013 elections.


President seeking US$300 million credit facility from Saudi Arabia for “budget support”

The government has confirmed it is in discussion with Saudi Arabia, seeking a long-term, low interest credit facility of US$300 million to help overcome “fiscal problems”.

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad confirmed President Waheed had held discussions with senior Saudi Arabian dignitaries including Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud over the proposed credit facility, during his recent visit to the country.

“The president has initiated the talks so it is just a matter of working out the details now,” Masood said, explaining that the funds would be used for “budget support” and development projects.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile said the government would still be required to secure parliamentary approval for the funding.

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that the heavily partisan parliament now effectively controlled state finances as a result of former opposition politicians – now part of President Waheed’s government – imposing tighter spending restrictions on former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration.

Ghafoor argued that with the MDP failing to recognise the legitimacy of the present government due to the controversial transfer of power last February, he did not believe there would be support for approving the credit agreement with Saudi Arabia due to the government’s existing extravagant borrowing levels.

The party accused the current government of reckless financial management, pointing to a potential US$1.4 billion compensation bill facing the state for deciding last year to abruptly terminate a US$511 million airport development contract agreed with infrastructure group GMR.

The compensation claim amounts to four times that of the Maldives’ current state reserves should it be awarded by a Singapore court overhearing arbitration hearings between GMR and the government.

“Since we do net see this government as legitimate, we do not see why we should support them,” he said. “They have put us into debt with their handling of the airport development and another bill for a border control system.”

Earlier this month, Malaysian security firm Nexbis invoiced the Department of Immigration and Emigration for US$2.8 million (MVR 43 million) for the installation and operation of its border control system technology in the country, in line with a concession agreement signed in 2010.

Immigration Controller Dr Mohamed Ali confirmed at the time that Nexbis had submitted a bill seeking charges for the period its system has been in use, as work continues on replacing the Malaysian company’s border controls with new technology provided by the US government.

Development delays

In April this year, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad sought authorisation from parliament to divert MVR 650 million (US$42 million) allocated for infrastructure projects in the budget to cover recurrent expenditure.

Jihad warned that government offices and independent institutions might be unable to pay salaries or electricity and phone bills if funds were not transferred from the MVR 1.8 billion (US$117 million) Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP).

Earlier the same month, Jihad also announced that the government had decided to delay all new development projects that were to be financed out of the state budget due to shortfalls in revenue.

The decision to suspend new projects was revealed after Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz told local media at the time that he had been instructed not to commence any further infrastructure projects included in the 2013 budget, such as harbour construction or land reclamation.

Both Finance Minister Jihad and Economic Development Minister Ahmed Mohamed were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.


Government-owned company ceases Club Faru resort operations

The Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) decided to cease operating the Club Faru resort as of May 15 this year, according to local media.

In January, the Tourism Ministry took control of the resort from the site’s previous owners following the expiry of their lease agreement.  The ministry handed control of the resort to the government-owned MTDC until phase two of the Hulhumale’ reclamation project was completed.

MTDC Managing Director Mohamed Matheen told local media that the Tourism Ministry had been notified to take over resort’s operations.

“There are no tourists on the island right now. We stopped the operation of the island, and have been temporarily taking care of the island until a decision is made,” Matheen said.

The MTDC previously requested an extension from the Tourism Ministry to the time period during which the company could operate the resort.

“We wanted to operate the island until the reclamation of Hulhumale’ begins. Even though we let tourists come to the resort, our plan was to empty and hand over the island by giving one month’s notice,” said Matheen.

“But we still don’t know when the reclamation will begin. But we have to keep some staff there to monitor the island until the government takes over,” he added.

Currently, the number of staff on Club Faru has been reduced to “about twenty”, according to Matheen.

Discussions with two foreign companies regarding phase two of the Hulhumale’ reclamation project – which includes Club Faru resort – are ongoing, according to the Housing Development Corporation (HDC).  The HDC is in charge of the Hulhumale’ development.


Heavy Load wins land reclamation contract

Heavy Load Maldives has been awarded the land reclamation contract at Hulhumalé following disputes yesterday with GMR, reports Sun Online. A new terminal will be constructed on this site for GMR Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

GMR declined to reveal the contract value, but confirmed that Heavy Load had received the contract. The project was allegedly delegated to GMR Airport Development Limited, a subsidiary of GMR, before it was awarded to Heavy Load.

The project budget was set at US$20 million, reports Sun.

The first phase of the project is said to reclaim 50 percent of the designated land area. In this phase, one million cubic metres of land area would be carved out of the ocean.

GMR reportedly said that harbour construction has not yet been delegated to any company.

Heavy Load Maldives is a company owned by Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik, the Interim Chairperson of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).


Queen of the Netherlands moves islands, causes shock and awe

The sheer speed at which the enormous dredging vessel Queen of the Netherlands has been reclaiming land at various islands has left some islanders open-mouthed with astonishment.

“People were truly in awe,” Hinnavaru Councillor Adam Yousuf told Minivan News.

Yousuf said it had previously taken nine months to dredge six hectares of land in Hinnavaru. The rate of the current reclamation project – 28 hectares of land reclaimed in less than ten days – was hard to believe for most islanders.

Currently Queen of the Netherlands is docked at Haa Dhaal Kulhudhuffushi where, within two weeks, it increased the size of the island by about a third. The growth of the island has left islanders a little disconcerted, Kulhudhuffishi Councillor Jamsheed Mohamed told Minivan News.

“When we wake up in the morning, the island is bigger than we left it the night before,” Mohamed said.

The welcome extended to the reclamation project on Kulhudhuffushi has not been completely unadulterated, however. The impact of the island’s rapid expansion has left the fishermen more than just disorientated.

“One week the harbour was on the West of the island, where it had been for generations. The next, it had moved to the north west,” Kulhudhuffushi fisherman Mohamed Iqbal, Dhinaashaa, told Minivan.

Added to the disconcerting switch is the lack of facilities at the new harbour.

“It is very far from where people live, which means that anybody wanting to buy fish has to walk a longer distance on Kulhudhuffushi than they ever have had to before,” Iqbal explained.

The newly reclaimed area is also far from residential areas, and does not have any electricity either, which makes running a fish market there extremely difficult, he said.

Councillor Mohamed told Minivan that while all the islanders are not happy with the way things are at the moment, they are all expecting them to improve. All islanders had wanted the new land.

“We are all hoping that things will change soon. We are hoping to have a new harbour within less than a year”, Councillor Mohamed said.

Bad weather, combined with unfamiliarity with the new harbour, caused an oil carrier accident as it approached the island on Sunday night.

The state-funded Rf109 million project to reclaim Kulhudhuffushi began on 21 September 2010, and is being carried out by Netherland’s Boskalis International. The Queen of the Netherlands is a trailing suction hopper dredger in its fleet.