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Current government yet to decide on plans for UTF

Mohamed Rehan
05 December 2023, MVT 10:32
Development of a dockyard for MNDF and harbor ongoing at UTF-- Photo: Mihaaru
Mohamed Rehan
05 December 2023, MVT 10:32

Minister of Infrastructure Dr. Abdulla Muththalib has disclosed that the current administration led by President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu has no immediate plans for Uthuru-Thilafalhu (UTF), a significant zone the previous government had intended for development and habitation.

The previous government had introduced a social housing scheme, aiming to allocate land plots to citizens who had either been residing in or listed in the registry of Malé City for 20 years. This initiative was announced in anticipation of the presidential run-off election.

The former administration, led by former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, had planned to allocate the plots from Uthuru-Thilafalhu (UTF), where construction was underway for an Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) dockyard and a harbor.

An Indian company was contracted for the development of the harbor and dockyard.

The administration had even released an illustrated plan outlining its intention to reclaim additional land opposite the zone designated for MNDF.

The publicized land-use plan for the UTF-- Photo: Ministry of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure

A total of 19,347 people applied for the social housing scheme.

Despite significant progress made in the housing initiative, the current administration, as of now, does not have any plans for UTF.

"It was a rather impulsive move amid the election. The current government does not have a specific plan for it as of now, but Urban Development Minister [Ali Haidar] would assess how to best approach the project," Minister Muththalib said.

He also highlighted the significant expenditure from the government, if it moved forward with plans to develop UTF and added, that the reclaimed land would need to be connected with the mainland.

Minister Muththalib stressed that importance would given to establish basic facilities in Gulhifalhu and Giraavaru, which are already in-development.

"One must consider that if Uthuru-Thilafalhu (UTF) is to be connected with Hulhumalé, a larger bridge structure is required than the one currently in development to connect Thilafushi with Giraavaru. The state should assess these factors before deciding on awarding land plots to the public, and that zone is quite a distance away, even by means of a speedboat transfer," the minister added.

"So I do not have any instruction about the government's immediate plan to move forward with UTF development."

Former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih pledged to reclaim 251 hectares of land for Uthuru-Thilafalhu to allocate plots to eligible citizens, promising to distribute more than 5,000 plots.

While the outgoing government's efforts for Giraavaru Falhu was apace, the minister stressed additional time would be required to complete shore protection and other developmental aspects.

The Infrastructure Minister further highlighted that Gulhifalhu and Giraavaru Falhu need to be connected via a bridge superstructure, comparatively longer than the bridge connecting Malé-Vilimalé.

The minister added that the former government did not make any plans to address the initiative.

"Even though land has been allocated to people, water and sanitation, electricity, road development and the bridge connection linking Giraavaru to Gulhifalhu are all necessary and expensive endeavors. But since plots from the islands have already been allocated, we are required to attend to these components," the minister added.

"Despite the projects being excluded from the 100-day plan, they will be given equivalent prioritization with necessary fund acquisition and management for the initiatives."

The minister said that the Fushidhiggaru urbanization initiative is a 20-year plan of the current government with the goal of developing a neighboring city geographically separated from Malé City. He added that the city would provide all basic services and urban facilities for the public, eliminating the need to travel to Malé for services.

"The government's first 100-day plan includes the launch of this project's physical works, which currently is in the planning stage. Work is currently underway at the President's Office to plan for fund acquisition and planning for the project," minister Muththalib said.

The current government has allocated MVR 400 million in the 2024 state budget for the reclamation of Fushidhiggaru. President Dr. Muizzu revealed that the project would offer a "total solution" to the housing crisis faced in Malé City. He further pledged that the government would allocate housing units and land plots from Fushidhiggaru.