The people of Hoadedhdhoo, Gaafu Dhaal Atoll, have broken up the causeway linking the island to its neighbouring island, Madaveli, in the same lagoon on Thursday.
According to Hoadedhdhoo Island Council, the people had decided to break up the causeway with an excavator "because waves were rising over the causeway and flooding the island".
"With waves entering the island and causing great damage, we were forced to split up the causeway," said Mohamed Ayaz, the council president.
The development of the causeway, contracted by Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC), had commenced in 2016 and was completed only last month. With an investment of MVR 29 million from the state budget, the causeway measures 440 metres in length and seven metres across. It connects the islands of Hoadedhdhoo and Madaveli, along with the uninhabited island of Haadhoo which lies in between.
However, the reclaimed causeway blocks the flow of water between the islands, where the currents are strong during the monsoon season. This results in the rise of strong waves all around Hoadedhdhoo as well as over the causeway. While the causeway features three openings along its length to allow water flow, the openings are reportedly too small to be effective.
Ayaz highlighted that the livelihoods of Hoadedhdhoo's people depend on agriculture. He stated they had no choice but to break up the causeway from where it joins Hoadedhdhoo, to prevent further damage caused by sea water affecting the island's agricultural fields.
"We tried to contact MTCC and the housing ministry about the waves rising over the causeway and into the island, but they didn't answer our calls. So we were forced to break up the causeway. Now they are upset and calling us," said the president of the opposition-led council.
"But our first responsibility is to protect the people. Now it is up to [the government] to do as they see fit."
According to Ayaz, the government's response had been to raise the causeway higher.
However, reports suggest that adding height to the causeway and making it a 'levee' of sorts, is not a guaranteed solution as high currents move past both sides of the causeway.
Ayaz stated that the incidents have occurred thrice since the causeway was established and that the council had informed the housing ministry and MTCC accordingly and requested them to expand the openings in the causeway to increase water flow.
Following the building of wave breaks, bridges, docks and harbours, issues with water mitigation as well as changes in the water and sand movement have risen across the country as many report effects such as soil erosion, excessive sedimentation and frequent flooding.
Many have taken to social media highlighting that inadequate research and planning was conducted prior to the commencement of the project, some dubbing the causeway a hasty 'electoral pledge' to garner votes by the out-going President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
Nevertheless, in the recently held presidential elections, the people of Hoadedhoo voted in largely in favour of the opposition coalition candidate and President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who received 67 percent of votes from the island.
The development of the causeway which commenced three years ago had been greatly delayed during its progress. While the project was halted at one point, work resumed to complete development just two months prior to the Presidential Election held on September 23, according to the council.