The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has included in its presidential manifesto the development of two urban centres, akin to the capital city of Male, in the north and south of Maldives.
According to the manifesto which was unveiled in a massive gathering hosted by PPM last Tuesday night, President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's government will create three integrated urban development zones, should he be re-elected for a second term in the upcoming Presidential Election.
These zones are the Greater Male Zone, the Northern Development Zone, and the Southern Development Zone, which are to form the core development hubs of the country.
The Northern Development Zone comprises the two northernmost administrative atolls of Haa Alif and Haa Dhaal, with the integrated development project of 'iHavan' as its centre. According to the manifesto, iHavan will feature an international airport and international transhipment port connected with special economic zones, along with extensive tourism.
The manifesto states that Kulhudhuffushi, Haa Dhaal Atoll, will be developed as the commercial hub of the Northern Development Zone, featuring a domestic airport, an international seaport, a logistics hub and an industrial zone. PPM also vows to build city hotels in Kulhudhuffushi, and to upgrade the island's regional hospital into a multispecialty hospital.
While the ruling party plans to add 3,000 tourist beds in Haa Alif and Haa Dhaal, the manifesto further promises to develop a domestic airport in Maafinolhu, Haa Alif, and to expand Hanimaadhoo Airport in Haa Dhaal.
It is of note that development of Kulhudhuffushi was also an electoral pledge of President Yameen in the 2013 manifesto, while iHavan's master plan has also been formed and budget allocated for the project in two years. However, the iHavan development is currently at a halt.
The Southern Development Zone encompasses the four southernmost administrative atolls of Gaafu Alif, Gaafu Dhaal, Gnaviyani (Fuvahmulah) and Seenu (Addu City).
PPM promises to establish Addu City as the marine gateway to the zone by establishing a Southern Seaport with an international bunkering facility in the atoll. The manifesto also vows to establish a fish processing plant in Addu, and to establish the atoll as a wellness tourism destination.
Regarding further infrastructure, PPM pledges to develop an international airport with a seaplane hub at Kaadedhdhoo, Gaafu Dhaal Atoll, within the first two years of the second term, as well as an international airport in Villingili, Gaafu Alif, and a domestic airport in Faresmaathoda, Gaafu Dhaal.
The manifesto further promises to add 10,000 tourist beds to Gaafu Alif and Gaafu Dhaal, and city hotels and retail centres in Fuvahmulah, Addu and Thinadhoo. Moreover, Hithadhoo Regional Hospital in Addu will be upgraded to a multispeciality hospital while the ruling party also vows to connect the Addu islands of Hithadhoo and Meedhoo by land.
The Greater Male Region is to be the main hub of national development according to the PPM manifesto, comprising of Male City, the suburbs of Hulhumale and Villimale, and Villimale 2 and Fushi Dhiggaru Lagoon which are to be reclaimed and developed.
If re-elected, PPM promises that Phase II of Hulhumale's development will continue, while VIllimale 2 is to be developed to cater for a population of 315,000, ensuring housing for every citizen over the age of 18 until 2030. The islands of Thilafushi, Gulhifalhu and Villimale will also be linked to Male City via bridges.
According to the manifesto, a new Male International Seaport will be developed at Thilafushi, while the go-downs, government work sites and Male Commercial Port are to be relocated to Thilafushi, thereby transforming the capital city into an appealing urban centre.
PPM also vows to develop high-end luxury housing and retail centres in Male, and an International Convention Centre and international multisport complex in the Greater Male Zone. The manifesto further seeks to expand tourism in the region by developing an international theme park and international cruise terminal in Hulhumale, and by establishing Hulhumale Youth City as a surfing destination.
The ruling party also detailed the infrastructural progress President Yameen's government will bring about for cities and islands should he win the election this year.
According to the manifesto, all atoll capitals will be developed as cities, thus ensuring a city within a 50-mile radius of any island in Maldives.
All cities will feature a domestic airport, a city hospital, a bank, a minimum of 500 housing units, waste management systems, a stadium and swimming area, a designated beach and a city hall or community centre.
Meanwhile, all the islands that fall short of city status will feature a domestic airport within 30-minutes travel time, clean water and sewerage system, a community centre, a swimming area, a children's park and an outdoor gym.