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Govt seeks public opinion to ‘design’ picnic island

Rae Munavvar
09 November 2019, MVT 14:40
Rae Munavvar
09 November 2019, MVT 14:40

The Ministry of National Planning and Infrastructure is to open discussions over setting up the artificial ‘island’ portion that was recently allotted for public use, within the reclaimed Emboodhoo Lagoon in Kaafu Atoll.

According to an announcement publicised by the ministry, the meeting is scheduled to take place Tuesday evening, at convention centre Dharubaaruge. Officials confirm that all private citizens have the right to attend the gathering and voice their comments and concerns regarding the picnic island project.

Singha Estate (Thailand)’s USD 800 million investment that spearheaded the development of Emboodhoo Lagoon, dubbed the “crossroads” mega-project, saw the reclamation of nine islands, located 15-minutes by speedboat from the capital city.

In April, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih declared that one of these ‘islands’ would be allocated for public use. Establishing an excursion destination is part of the President’s first '100-day' pledges.

The seven construction companies tasked with developing the picnic ‘island’ are Aima Construction, SAS Construction, Alia Construction, HPS Maldives, Kurihara Kogyo (Singapore), SLP Group and LAMA Group.

Plans announced for construction include the building of a water sports complex, barbecue grounds, various unspecified sports fields and beachside set-ups, as well as rooms for accommodation. Crossroads Maldives aims to complete the first phase of their work and to open doors to the public by the end of this year.

The announcement to grant a space from for public use within the reclaimed lagoon came amidst much anticipation for the designation of a natural island, and not a reclaimed one. Previously, the ruling government stated that the island allocated for local enjoyment would be a natural one, and not reclaimed land.

As an opposition party, the current leadership condemned previous administration choices to remove the use of all the natural islands that were previously used for local enjoyment in the central region.

According to a statement made by President Solih, the decision to acquire space from Emboodhoo Finolhu was made because it would be better to utilise a reclaimed space, rather than to reclaim new land.

Previously, people visited neighbouring Islands Kuda Bandos, and Feydhoo Finolhu for small vacations, prior to the Islands being utilized for the developments of resorts. Kuda Bandos is now a tourist resort known as Malahini Kuda Bandos.

The decision to allocate an 'artificial' island has sparked criticism towards the government and with multiple parties requesting the government grant public use of both Feydhoo Finolhu and Kuda Bandos, instead. The administration of former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom decided to reclaim a lagoon nearby Feydhoo Finolhu for the purpose of establishing a picnic destination. However, the project did not move ahead.

Emboodhoo Lagoon, the country’s first multi-island integrated leisure and entertainment destination, is planned to be launched in a number of phases. The township; an island of amusement comprising of in excess of 60 distinct shops, bistros, bars and cafés, began welcoming guests in the last quarter of the year. The first phase, consisting of the Hard Rock Hotel Maldives with 178 keys, Curio by Hilton with 198 keys, and the Upscale Lifestyle Resort (5 stars) with 120 keys, is also expected to commence operations soon.

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