Islanders still in the dark about relocation due to airport project
Neither the Housing Ministry nor the island council has contacted families about relocation plans.
Families whose houses will be demolished for an airport on Tuesday said they were still in the dark about relocation plans.
There are 18 houses close to the mangrove area of Kulhudhuffushi that will be knocked down for the project, and 15 families have waited for over a year for firm concrete relocation plans.
The remaining four properties are unoccupied. The Maldives Independent estimates around 80 people live across the properties. It spoke to every household that will have to relocate because of the airport.
Neither the Housing Ministry nor the island council has contacted the families about relocation plans.
Staff from the Regional Airport department of the Tourism Ministry met the households in July, but different information was given out. Some have signed compensation agreements and some have been shown plots of land.
There are also those who were asked to move out, with the promise of rent paid by airport authorities for eight months.
“We don’t know if we’re supposed to relocate to the sea, or to the mangroves, or to the streets. They only told us to leave our homes,” said Abdul Rahman from the house Smart.
He expressed concern about the lack of planning regarding rent and what his family was supposed to do after the eight months.
“We don’t know when or how they will pay us. We can’t move out if they don’t show us where we’re supposed to go,” he said. “Are they giving us a place to stay with rent? How long will we be there? What happens if we have to stay there longer – after the eight months are up, will we have to go onto the streets?”
– Varying compensation –
Most households were informed they would be given MVR10,000 (US$649) a month for rent, but one was told only MVR8,000 would be available.
Moosa Hassan from Leave said he had not been given a cap figure but was turned down when he requested MVR12,000.
“They told us to find a house for rent, so we did and we told them. They said the price was too high at MVR12,000. We haven’t heard from them since,” said Hassan, who has four families living in his home and needs a four-bedroom house.
“I can’t live in one room with four families.” he added.
The family in Kulavaru requested MVR2 million as compensation, but was told the figure was too high.
“Building a house is expensive. We did the calculations and we need two million to build,” said Moosa Hassan from Kulavaru.
The family at Daisy Villa, the most densely populated household with nine family members, also expressed displeasure at the compensation.
“It’s not like we wanted to move. But the compensation is not just land, the cost of construction, the furniture – most of which can’t be moved that easily,” said Mohamed Ali ‘Redey’.
The houses wrote to Regional Airports asking for MVR2.4 million, he explained, but a team visited them last month to persuade them to change their minds.
“They went into each house separately and tried to increase incrementally,” he said. “We got a report earlier this year which said this is the amount we would be given. We were told we would be given MVR850,000.”
“We did our research, asked construction experts on the island for an opinion. We were told that the land should cost MVR1,000 per square feet. Our house building is 2,000 square feet. So that makes it MVR200,000 for the building alone,” he added.
– Plots of land –
Ahmed Ali from Free Park was one of the few people informed about land for relocation.
“There are four plots of land near the harbour, four plots of land near Veligandu and land near the STO building. The largest plot of land is near the harbour area, so we have requested land from there,” Ali said.
He is among the three families that signed documents for compensation. He was informed the paperwork would be sent to court and to the Prosecutor General’s Office for validation.
“I think it is just myself and one other person who is happy with the house we were shown and how much we would be given. Everyone else had problems and wrote to Regional Airports,” said Ahmed Hassan from Randhoadhi.
He wanted the rent money paid in advance before moving out because he was concerned about where he would have to live once the eight-month period was up.
“After we move out, everyday that we don’t start building, is another day cut off from that eight-month period. By the time we are told to move, will the plots of land be registered in our name?” he asked
The Maldives Independent contacted Regional Airports to ask if they have a plan for airport development, if reclamation work has been completed, if mitigation measures have been taken during the process, and if a company has been contracted to build the airport project. They had not responded at the time of going to the press.
The Maldives Transport and Contracting Company has reclaimed 15 hectares of land for the project, even after an Environmental Impact Assessment warned of “considerable negative impacts” because of the development.