President Abdulla Yameen has called on the residents of islands with small populations to migrate to the new youth city to be established in Hulhumalé, stating the government is unable to meet the socio-economic needs of small islands.
Speaking at a ceremony to inaugurate the second reclamation phase of Hulhumalé on Thursday (January 15), Yameen assured youth the government would provide better living conditions and job opportunities in Hulhumalé.
“The government is finding it difficult to cater to the economic and social needs of small islands. We have to meet human needs such as constructing harbours, establishing schools and hospitals, reclaiming land, transport systems, and so much more. It is not easy for the government to do this,” he said.
Although the government would facilitate relocation, migration would not be compulsory, he said.
“It may be a very beautiful island, but there is not much we can do for an island with 200 people, 300 people, or 400 people.”
In November the Majlis’ budget committee passed a proposal requiring the government to formulate a master plan for population consolidation, while the Maldives Monetary Authority recommended such a policy in order to “reduce state expenditure and provide services to the public in a sustainable way”.
With the completion of the second phase of Hulhumalé development, the government hoped to increase the population on the artificial island from 40,000 to 220,000, and increase the population of the Malé region to 400,000, the president said.
According to the 2014 census, the population of the Maldives stands at 341,256. Of this, 133,019 people live in Malé.
The second phase involved reclamation of 240 hectares of land and is expected to be completed within two months. The US$50 million project was awarded to Belgium’s Dredging International NV.
Yameen said on Thursday evening that the government would begin work on a bridge connecting Malé and Hulhumale this year, and will also improve ferry services.
The president has previously pledged to establish a ‘technopolis park’, entertainment, and sports facilities, and facilities for tourism and fisheries industries. Hulhumalé Development Corporation officials have also said phase two of the project will feature a monorail to Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.
Yameen said he had received a petition signed by 85 percent of residents in Vaavu Atoll Fulidhoo Island requesting relocation.
To facilitate economic activity and ease population pressure, the government will allow buildings to be built as high as 25 stories in Malé and Hulhumalé, the president added. Studies have shown the land in Malé to be strong enough, he said.
At present, buildings in Malé can be constructed to a maximum of 15 stories.
Yameen also pledged to ban traffic in narrow lanes in Malé in order to ease congestion and to allow space for children to play.
Speaking at the ceremony, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb said Yameen is the only political leader in the country with the courage to provide opportunities for youth.
The government will develop the northern and southern regions through the Special Economic Zone Act, pledged Adeeb.
The road development project in Laamu Atoll, the airport in Kulhudhuffishi and the I-Havan port in Haa Alif will create more opportunities for the youth, he said.
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