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Government pulls plug on Fainu Airport project

Shahudha Mohamed
17 April 2019, MVT 09:55
Aerial view of Fainu, Raa Atoll. The former government announced the airport project in 2018. FILE PHOTO/MIHAARU
Shahudha Mohamed
17 April 2019, MVT 09:55

The government on Tuesday cancelled the airport development project in Fainu, Raa Atoll, which was announced by former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's administration.

State Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Ahmed Zuhair revealed to local media Mihaaru that the government backed out of the project to avoid inflicting damage on the environment.

Yameen's administration signed over the project to Island Aviation Services Ltd (IAS) on May 30, 2018, to develop a city hotel, medical centre and a surgery aftercare facility in addition to the airport. The then Managing Director of the company, Abdul Haris, stated that the first phase of the three-phase project will be the development of the runway and terminal.

Work has not yet commenced despite the company guaranteeing the airport's opening after the completion of phase one.

Along with the project's announcement, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was conducted on Fainu, a unique island boasting lush vegetation.

The EIA states that 5,792 trees must be uprooted for the airport project, a staggering 38 percent of the island's total vegetation.

However, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on November 14, 2018, rejected the EIA report, claiming it was incomplete and the research concerning the island's vegetation was insufficient.

According to EPA, clearing such a large area poses irreversible damage to the environment and such a venture would negatively affect both the water lens and ambient temperature of the island.

Stating that projects will commence after a referral to the coalition-led administration's overall development plan, Zahir declared that the current government had no plans to push forward with any previously proposed Fainu projects.

Valued at USD 8 million, the airport was meant to consist of a 1,320-metre-long and 30-metre-wide runway with a 45-metre wide apron area. The construction process required clearance of 20.8 out of the island's total 59-hectares; approximately 30 percent of the land.

Various organisations protested against the project, even submitting a signed petition to relevant authorities.

Zuhair iterated the government's plan to establish airports in a way that allows transportation to neighbouring islands within 30-minutes by launch or boat.