Police clear roads to address parking problems

The Traffic Police Department of the Maldives Police Service has carried out a special operation in Malé to address the difficulties in parking.

The operation, which was carried out on April 10, involved clearing the roads and parking areas of unwanted items such pallets and litter.

This operation cleared over 100 unwanted pallets from the streets, and was part of a wider initiative by the police to address parking difficulties.

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Fatal motorbike crash on Kulhudhufushi leaves one dead

A 21 year-old man was killed and an 18 year-old man was critically injured after a motorbike crash on the island of Kulhudhufushi island last night.

The motorbike crashed into a wall last night at about 3:55am in the morning, according to police.

Police identified the 21 year-old man as Ahmed Ibrahim and the injured man as Adam Sinah. Both are islanders from Kulhudhufushi.

Sinah is currently in Kulhudhufushi Regional Hospital’s ICU receiving treatment. Islanders prepared Ibrahim’s body to be laid to rest this afternoon after Asr Prayers, according to the Island Council.

According to a statement issued by police, the pair both suffered head wounds in the crash, and both bled from their nose and ears.

Upon receiving the reports, police officers attended the scene and found one victim’s body under the motorbike while the other person’s body was lying 14 feet away from the bike, said police in the statement.

Police said that both were unconscious when police arrived and  were immediately taken to Kulhudhufishu Regional Hospital, where Ibrahim was pronounced dead.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said police cannot disclose further information as the investigation continues.

Council Member of Kulhudhufushi Ibrahim Rameez told Minivan News that the accident occurred before 3:30am early in the morning.

‘’We do not know what they were up to but the accident occurred near the house of one person involved in the accident and it could be believed that they were on their way to his home,’’ Rameez said.

‘’The motorbike crashed into the outer wall of a house and there are signs where the bike hit,’’ he said, adding that the wall was not damaged.

Rameez said the council was informed about the incident at dawn.

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Fishermen’s Union says ‘No’ to private ownership

The Fishermen’s Union has rejected Male’ City Council’s proposal to privatise the fish market on the grounds that the change would eliminate competition and complicate boat routines.

“We have to keep our system,” said union chairman Ibrahim Umar. “Privatising will make the operation too big.”

Umar said that 50 vessels currently come to Male’ each day to deliver fish, and that space is tight. Under the proposed plan, said Umar, fishermen would have fewer responsibilities in Male’s fish market but would be expected to make more frequent trips in and out of Male’s harbor.

“There isn’t room for that kind of traffic in the harbor. And there isn’t storage capacity for the extra fish that would be coming in,” said Umar.

According to Umar, the fish market currently enjoys a healthy level of competition.

“Every day the fishing is good, there is enough money, and there is even demand from other atolls for fish from Male’. Privatising the fish market will kill the competition because fishermen will have to sell at the same private rate. Bringing in more fish will also keep the price down, and there’s nowhere to keep it on Male’. We need to run this through the union,” he said.

Male’ Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali ‘Alibe’ Manik said the plan to privatise is an effort to comply with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, Haveeru reports.

“When we hand over the fish market for management, the fishermen will just have to bring the fish to the market and hand it over to those in charge of management. That way it saves the fishermen time, allowing them to set off fishing faster,” he said.

For Umar, the advantages were unclear.

“How will fishermen get paid? It will take longer if they aren’t selling the fish themselves,” he observed.

Addressing the issue of facilities, however, Umar said that an earlier proposal to build a fish harbour in Hulhumale’ was being revisited by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, the Ministry of Transport and Hulhumale’ Development Corporation (HDC).

In 2009, plans to build a fish harbour on Hulhumale’ were sent to the National Planning Council. The harbour was intended to expand and expedite the fishing industry, and reduce the pressure on Male’s market.

When the National Planning Council rejected the plan, however, Umar said there was a breakdown in communication and trust. “They weren’t talking to us, I found out through the Fisheries Minister that they had rejected the plan. There was no communication with [the union] about the plan or the finances.”

Umar said the union was told there was a lack of funds, but claimed that the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) had set aside money for the harbour. “I don’t know what happened with that money, we never got an explanation.”

In 2006, IFAD approved a post-tsunami recovery program in agriculture and fisheries. IFAD currently classifies the program as ‘ongoing’.

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Ibrahim Didi, said the earlier financial problems have been resolved and the ministry is currently working with HDC to construct a fish harbour.

Didi said expanding work space is integral to privatising the fish market, which is growing.

“There’s already plenty of demand for the fish,” said Didi. “Privatising it would bring significant benefits to fishermen. They will have more access to the harbors, necessities such as ice will arrive on time, and things will happen more quickly.”

Didi said development of Hulhumale’s fish harbour has priority, and plans for other fish harbours will be considered accordingly.

According to Didi, President Mohamed Nasheed’s plan will distribute fishing components such as ice, oil and parts to different interested parties. Didi said the approach would improve facilities.

“If the different components of the fishing industry are spread out among interested parties working with a commercial interest, then business will move very fast because there will be a real business interest.”

The City Council earlier told Haveeru that the goal of privatising the market was to improve selling procedures, not to increase profits. Representatives said the union’s response would affect planning.

Council representatives and officials familiar with the proposal had not responded to inquiries at time of press.

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Bridge needed between Male’ and Hulhumale’, says President

President Mohamed Nasheed has said it is necessary for the government to built a bridge connecting the islands of Male’ and Hulhumale’ to improve transportation and development on both islands. This statement was made after the President presented documents of guarantee to flat recipients in Hulhumale’, as provided by the Veshi Fahi Male’ de-congestion program.

The President said a ferry system was insufficient to accommodate the growing populations on both islands.

The Veshi Fahi Male’ housing project is expected to add 10,000 flats to Hulhumale’. 8,000 flats are currently being constructed.

2500 flats were said to be built under Phase 2 of the Gulhifalhu development project, which is set to begin next month, reported the President’s Office.

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New bidding system will limit private vehicle congestion, says Transport Minister

The Ministry of Transport is drafting regulations that will limit applications for private vehicles via a bidding process, in an effort to halt further congestion of cities such as Male’.

“The idea is to control the rising number of vehicles on the streets of Male’,” said Transport Minister Adhil Saleem. “73 percent of people on the street are pedestrians, but the streets are small, especially with two rows of parked motorbikes, and pedestrians are being pinned against the wall.”

The new regulations, which will soon be published in the government’s gazette, will see a certain number of license numbers released to the public each year through public auction. The numbers will go to the applicants who score the most points, and not necessarily the highest bidder.

60 points will be allocated for vehicles with zero emissions, 50 points to the highest bidder, and 10 points for brand new fossil fuel vehicles. No points will be given for imported second hand vehicles, Adhil explained.

“We estimate that this will mean it will cost Rf100,000-200,000 (US$6485-12970) to put a brand new electric vehicle on the road, and Rf300,000-400,000 (US$19455-25940) to put a fossil fuel vehicle on the road,” he said.

The Ministry is also seeking to reform the taxis, Adhil said, which were currently operated like private vehicles rather than as a professional service.

“It’s encouraging the number of taxi drivers who have switched to driving the new buses. I think the scheme has been very successful. Already we can see little improvements in order on the main streets where the buses travel,” he said.

Co-founder of local environmental NGO Bluepeace, Ali Rilwan, said the bidding scheme sounded positive as long as it did not put vehicle ownership only within reach of the privileged.

Male’ already was way beyond its capacity for vehicles, he said. “More high rises are going up and there is just enough room for pedestrians.”

“When school kids come out on a road like Chandhanee Magu there is no space and the road closes,” Rilwan said.

It was a “good question” as to why so many cars and motorbikes were needed on a 2.2 square kilometre island, he noted.

“It’s a fashionable thing – it’s trendy for people to spend their free time riding around.”

People needed to be encouraged to use bicycles, he said, but said many were put off by the high rate of theft.

“Fifteen years ago bicycles had to be registered with a number plate. But when registration was relaxed in the late 1980s, the police were no longer able to identify bicycles and they were frequently stolen. People mark chickens and coconut trees on the islands, but not bicycles.”

It was not uncommon for a student to have to buy 7-10 bicycles during his school life, Rilwan said.

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Vehicle-free zone planned for Male’

Transport Authorities are said to have announced that as of later this month, the use of vehicles will be restricted in the Lonuziyaaraikolhu area of Male’ – situated in the southeast corner of the capital – following cabinet consultation on the issue.

According to Haveeru, Mohamed Latheef, Permanent Secretary of the Transport Authority of the Maldives, said that the vehicle-free zone is expected to come into force on 26 March and incorporate Raiyvilla Hingun in the northeastern corner of Henveiru Park and Ameenee Magu to the southwest of the area.

Latheef said that vehicles will still be able to travel around Moonlight Hingun and Hithigas Magu even after the restrictions are put in place.

According to the report, the decision was made in collaboration with Male’ City Council and is tentatively scheduled to launch in order to coincide with the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Earth Hour initiative. The scheme attempts to encourage citizens and organisations around the world to turn all their lights off for an hour to try and drastically cut global energy usage and the planet’s combined environmental footprint.

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