Maldives as a country is seen from two different perspectives when you are a foreigner and when you are actually living in the country itself. While tourists might see the Maldives as a haven that they escape to on winter holidays, for the locals, life in the Maldives is a constant battle between the housing crisis, the Government making poor decisions at the expense of the locals or thinking about the future of the country due to climate change.
One of the biggest issues that the country has battled to resolve for years has always been the housing crisis as the country’s past with extreme centralisation meant that islands were left under-developed, forcing residents from the atolls to seek a better life, healthcare and even education from the capital city. With this, hundreds, if not thousands of people migrate to the capital city for months, years or even permanently, leaving behind the comfort of their own homes and seeking better access to things that they simply cannot get on their own island.
With this, the housing crisis in the Maldives started getting worse. While the Governing bodies have ‘decentralised’, many might say that when it comes to development and access to better facilities, the capital city is highly centralised to this day. Whether you are seeking career development in any field, and if you are a local you already know that these things are only accessible in Male’ City.
Due to this overpopulation and extreme demand for housing, with affordable and livable housing being extremely low in supply in the Maldives, the need for a housing, and government intervention has become necessary. And since the housing crisis and severe congestion in Male’ City, every Government has been trying to come up with their own version of a solution to the issue.
While housing projects were being taken up and completed as early as 2012, following the reclamation of Hulhumale Farukolhufushi Lagoon during President Gayyoom’s era, the need for more housing projects keep arising as the congestion issue does not seem to be getting better in Male’ City.
With this, Hulhumale’ Phase II was reclaimed and the most well-known housing project in the Maldives, Hiya flats as we know them were constructed.
Following the success of the Hiya Flat project, the current administration started their own ideation of a housing project, which involved giving free land to residents of Male’ City. While these free land slots were opened up only for Male’ residents who were born and raised in the City, clearly an unplanned and overwhelming number of residents applied for the slots.
With this, the Solih administration has been faced with making a decision on how to fulfil their promise to the residents of Male City and provide them with the free land that was promised to be given during this term of the Presidency.
Following this dilemma, a local news outlet then broke the news that the Government was in the works of bringing some major changes to the Hulhumale’ master plan in order to fulfil this promise of providing free land for Male’ residents.
The original plan, which was constructed to develop the City while also addressing the Male’ City area, also included plans to develop a cruise terminal which was to reach international standards to cater to the various yachts and cruises that are harboured near the City. With tourists flowing into the city through cruises, and tourism being on the rise in the country, this plan was sure to be a great success if it was carried out as there is still no proper harbour built for cruises and yachts that are harboured near the City.
According to the local news sources, however, the Solih administration has been planning to scratch this plan and reclaim that area as part of the initiative to give free land to Male’ residents. These whispers and assumptions, however, soon turned more into a reality following the Member of the Parliament of Kendhoo MP Ali Hussain spoke on this matter. Addressing this issue, the MP stated that bringing such major changes to the Hulhumale’ master plan is going to have an ever-lasting negative impact as the citizens are already facing major issues due to not getting enough space in the harbour.
While the plans to develop a terminal would have resolved a lot of these issues, the new plan included reclaiming the area starting from the Marry Brown building to the Farukolhu Fushi area of Phase II.
These concerns, however, were not only raised by the MP as the ‘Ammu Ekuveringe Jamiyya’ has also called on the Government to change their decision, stating that if they bring about these changes to the master plan, Hulhumale’ is sure to become a crowded place just like Male’ City. In their statement, they also noted that the sudden decision to reclaim this area is a quick solution to the promise to give free land to the residents of Male’ City instead of carrying out the master plan as it was before.
While a local news media also reported that after reaching out to Urban Co, previously known as HDC, the company has stated that they have made no decision yet, major concerns are being raised around this decision that may be taken by the Solih Government right before the Presidential election September.