Reclamation work started near Hoarafushi Friday for the development of a new airport, local media reported, as the government presses on with building projects ahead of September’s presidential election.
The new airport is to be built on Maafinolhu, an uninhabited island about three kilometres from Hoarafushi in the northern-most Haa Alifu atoll.
Most of the trees on the island will be razed for the MVR64 million (US$4.12 million) construction of the runway and other airport buildings.
The state-owned MTCC began the reclamation with its dredger Mahaa Jarraaf, which was also used to reclaim the mangrove system of Kulhudhuffushi late last year.
A total of 17.2 hectares of land will be added to the 12-hectare island, according to the environmental impact assessment.
The reclamation work is to be completed within 203 days, according to the MTCC.
There is an airport on Hanimaadhoo, Haa Dhaalu atoll, which is about 40 kilometres to the south-east of Hoarafushi and accessible in 45 minutes by speedboat.
The MTCC has finished reclamation work for airport developments in Kulhudhuffushi in Haa Dhaalu atoll, Funadhoo in Shaviyani atoll and Maavarulu in Gaafu Dhaalu atoll. The MTCC has also been contracted to construct the runways for these airports.
Earlier this month President Abdulla Yameen promised a new airport for the island of Muli in Meemu atoll if he is re-elected for a second term in office.
He told supporters in his former constituency that many islands were getting new airports and the people of Muli were also hoping to have an airport on their island.
“It is up to the people of Muli to decide if the airport will be built [under] President Yameen. If the people give me the chance, that can also be done. I will make the dreams of the people of Muli a reality,” Yameen said at the time.
His government has been under fire for the environmental cost of airports.
Thousands of trees were cut down and a major mangrove system was destroyed in Kulhudhuffushi, while there has been outrage over plans to destroy over 57 football fields of trees for a proposed airport project in Raa atoll.