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Proposed picnic island draws criticism over lack of natural beach

The picnic island is to be developed on a reclaimed lagoon.



Members of the public who took part in a public consultation on Tuesday night objected to an artificial picnic island for residents of the capital.

The planning and infrastructure ministry sought public opinion for developing the proposed picnic island on land reclaimed from the Emboodhoo lagoon southwest of Malé. The picnic spot will be developed on one of nine islands reclaimed by Thailand’s Singha Estate for its Crossroads multi-resort project, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced in April.

Seven companies that are developing resorts on the nine artificial islands were contracted in September to develop the picnic island as a corporate social responsibility project. Designating a picnic island for the 140,000 population residing in the overcrowded capital – which lacks natural beaches – was a campaign pledge of President Solih. 

The public consultation meeting on Tuesday night was sparsely attended. Participants reportedly objected to forcing locals to have picnics on an artificial island after leasing all uninhabited natural islands in Malé atoll for high-end resorts.

Responding to the criticism, consultant Hussein Zahir said tourists were also spending holidays on reclaimed islands and suggested that the picnic island would have a good beach. A ferry would operate between Malé and the picnic island from 6am to 6pm, he said.

Return tickets will be under MVR80 (US$6) for locals and expatriates in addition to an MVR10 entrance fee, said Zahir, a consultant from the Land and Marine Environmental Resource Group (LaMER), a private environmental consultancy firm.

Planning and Infrastructure Mohamed Aslam has meanwhile been under fire on social media over alleged links to LaMER, which conducted environmental impact assessments for the Emboodhoo lagoon project during the previous administration.

Aslam was one of four consultants named in a dredging site EIA for the reclamation work.

Asked about the allegations, State Minister Akram Kamaluddin told the Maldives Independent that there was no conflict of interest but was unable to comment on Aslam’s former ties to the firm. 

A media official stressed that LaMER had been hired by the resort developer and not the planning ministry.

Two islands used for picnics, Kuda Bandos and Feydhoo Finolhu, were controversially leased for resort development during former president Abdulla Yameen’s administration. Bandos, which lies about 10km north of Malé, was leased to a company owned by former vice president Mohamed Waheeduddin.