Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizz has revealed plans to reclaim lagoons near Malé to provide about 82,000 flats and plots of land.
The Vilimalé 2 or ‘Hiyaa Accomplished’ project was announced by President Abdulla Yameen last month as a “total solution” to overcrowding in the capital, promising a “second city” that could house almost the entire Maldivian population.
With the presidential election scheduled for September 23, Muizz announced at a press briefing Wednesday that application forms will be available from August 7 onward to be submitted within a four-month period.
There should be no rush to apply, Muizz said: “We’re building homes enough for everyone in need of housing in the Maldives at present and for everyone who will turn 18 in the next 12 years.”
Lack of adequate housing has been a perennial crisis in the Maldives, where 39 percent of the country’s 341,256 population lives on the 2.2 square mile island of Malé, a worsening situation that has been blamed for a host of social ills.
Vilimalé, administratively considered the fifth district of the capital, is a small island suburb about 1.2 miles west of Malé.
For the Vilimalé 2 project, Muizz said 230 hectares from the Gulhi Falhu lagoon west of the island will be reclaimed and developed as a “modern city” with a mixture of social and mid- and high-range housing.
About 800 hectares from the Fushi Dhiggaru lagoon near Malé will also be reclaimed, from which 1,000-square-foot plots would be awarded.
Based on the number of applications, the reclamation work would be divided into phases and carried out using the Mahaa Jarrafu hopper dredger of the state-owned Maldives Transport and Construction Company, he said.
A bridge spanning from the industrial island Thilafushi to Malé would connect the new landmasses.
Administrative matters and preparation for the project have started, Muizz said, but did not reveal cost estimates, sources of finance or when dredging would begin.
The housing form will be simple as the only condition is for applicants to be 18 years of age and not own land in excess of 1,000 square feet, he said.
They cannot then apply for other housing schemes such as the Hiyaa project in Hulhumalé, a reclaimed island east of the capital under development as a ‘Youth City.’
The government plans to resettle more than 100,000 people in the Hulhumalé phase two landmass.
More than 40,000 application forms were taken by the end of May.
Muizz said the government estimates about 200,000 Maldivians are in need of housing but predicted about 15,000 applications for the new Hiyaa scheme.
The president’s announcement of the second Hiyaa project drew criticism on social media with many opposing the consolidation of the entire population in the Greater Malé region.
The Maldivian population is presently dispersed on 186 islands.
The opposition also points to the failure to complete any housing projects before the end of a five-year term.
Addressing the criticism, Muizz denied plans to depopulate small islands with forced migration. The current administration has been developing infrastructure such as harbours and domestic airports throughout the country, he said.
But Muizz told The Guardian in March last year that it was not sustainable to provide essential facilities to all islands.
“Some islands have just a few hundred people. It is not feasible to keep them there. A lot of small islands face erosion and groundwater contamination. They need sewerage networks and new harbours. The priority will be the capitals of atolls,” he was quoted as saying.