The government has unveiled the final design of a US$300 million bridge to be built between Malé and its suburb Hulhumalé with assistance from the Chinese government.
Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and Chinese Minister of Commerce Gao Yan unveiled the design of the “China-Maldives Friendship Bridge” in an animated video presentation at a ceremony held at the raalhugadu (surf point) area of Malé last night.
Speaking at the ceremony, Adeeb said construction work will begin before the end of the year. An agreement will be signed with a Chinese contractor chosen from shortlisted companies, he said.
The 1.9km-long bridge will have two lanes for four-wheeled vehicles as well as separate lanes for bicycles, motorcycles, and pedestrians. The bridge will span from Malé’s eastern edge to the western corner of Hulhulé, where the airport is located.
Adeeb said the bridge will solve the most pressing social issues facing the country, which stems from congestion in the capital city as one-third of the Maldivian population resides in Malé.
The government has allocated land in the area reclaimed under phase two of the Hulhumalé development project to build 25,000 housing units, he said, adding that the housing need in Malé is 14,000 flats.
Adeeb stressed that economic development is key to address social problems such as lack of housing.
He also noted that the bridge will also carry electricity cables and water pipes between Malé and the reclaimed artificial island.
President Abdulla Yameen, First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim, cabinet ministers, MPs, Supreme Court justices, and visiting Chinese government officials attended last night’s design unveiling ceremony. The ceremony ended with a fireworks display and a reception at the Dharubaaruge convention centre.
In June, the Chinese government pledged to provide US$100 million as free grant aid to finance the construction of the bridge.
Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on financing the project, finance minister Abdulla Jihad said at the time that the Chinese government will also provide a US$170 million loan at an interest rate of two percent. The remaining US$30 million will be spent from the Maldivian state budget.
During a historic state visit in September 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping had said he hoped the bridge will be called “the China-Maldives friendship bridge” and would ‘favorably consider financing’ the bridge if the design proves feasible.
In May, a team of Chinese technicians began drilling bore holes on the ocean floor to gather information for the feasibility survey.
Meanwhile, in a keynote address delivered at the opening ceremony of the 10th China-South Asia Business Forum on June 12, President Abdulla Yameen declared that Sino-Maldives relations are at an “all-time high” with the establishment of a cooperative partnership between the countries last year.