The runway under development at Kulhudhuffushi Airport faces delays in the project due to being unable to relocate 18 houses present in the allocated area for the runway.
The airport, which has had 13 hectares of land reclaimed from the island's mangrove, continues to face a considerable backlash against the development of the area.
The government-initiated project to develop a domestic airport in Kulhudhuffushi requires the reclamation of six hectares of the island’s western lagoon and nine hectares of its mangrove swamp.
Earlier this year, Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC)’s largest dredger ‘Maha Jarraf’ had reclaimed the six hectares of the lagoon and nine hectares of the mangroves.
The reclamation of the mangrove swamp sparked an immediate outcry from the island’s residents as well as environmentalists across the nation, being that Kulhudhuffushi’s swamp is one of the largest in the northern atolls, notable for its rich biodiversity including several endangered species of mangroves.
The government has planned to reimburse the affected houses by allocating land and money to develop for housing but the affected citizens have denied the offer as they believe that the offered sum is too little to develop a house.
According to the information unearthed by ‘Mihaaru’, the government has offered a sum of MVR 400,000 – MVR 800,000 for those relocating, which citizens have deemed unfeasible for the building new houses.
One of such house owner, Ali Ismail of Daisy Vilaage has proposed an amount of MVR 2.4 million for his house at the rate of MVR 1,000 per square feet, however, the government has agreed to finance MVR 851,000 for a four-bedroom two-storey residence that includes a living and kitchen space.
“I have already spent more on my house than what the state has offered for a new one,” said Ali, who lives in his home with his family.
Lacking sufficient government assistance to finance alternative housing, the people have chosen to stand against pending evacuation of their homes.
The government has declared a restriction on rent, to not exceed MVR 10,000 until the 18 houses are developed.
Abdul Raheem Aboobakuru, the owner of ‘Smart House', which also to be demolished for the runway, has stated that the land the government has promised in return, has not been received, nor have the relevant authorities clarified the details pertaining to the financial aid.
The only means of developing the airport would be following the demolition of these 18 houses.
According to Kulhudhuffushi council president Abdul Latheef, the details of when the alternative housing for the residents will be provided is still unknown. Questions are being raised regarding when the airport will be finished as well.
The government has previously stated that the airport will be functional by June 2018, yet major components of the airport project have yet to commence, including the tarring of the airport runway.
The Kulhudhuffushi airport is part of incumbent President Yameen’s 2013 pledge to the people of Kulhudhuffushi, but with three months left in the administration's current term, it seems less than likely that the project will conclude in said time.
There have been no recent statements from the government concerning the major development project at Kulhudhuffushi Airport.