Resettlement of Laamu atoll Gaadhoo islanders to Fonadhoo of the same atoll has begun on Monday, with 38 families having moved completely.
Only around 170 people live in Gaadhoo which has a registered population of over 420 people. The islanders are being relocated under the population consolidation policy due to the small residing population, and the accompanying economic infeasibility of providing basic amenities and services such as health care and education.
According to the island council, 85 houses, each with 3 rooms in a land plot of 3000 square feet have been constructed by the government for resettlement, and 23 other land plots have been allotted to Gaadhoo islanders.
MVR60,000 (US$3891) will be paid as resettlement costs for each household, a MVR10,000 (US$648.5) increase after demands for MVR100,000 (US$6485).
Gaadhoo island council president Abdul Azeez also said that households that cannot manage with only 3 rooms and with more than 6 residents, will be given MVR100,000 by the state for the construction of one more room.
“The same amount will be given for the construction of a second extra room and if a household still needs more rooms, a new plot of 3000 square feet will be allotted with MVR300,000 (US$194,555) for construction of a house,” he said.
However, Azeez noted that the government has refused to build outer boundary walls of the new houses as demanded by the islanders.
Further, “some have raised the issue of compensation and allotment of plots in the recent months by the island court in the cases of inheritance,” he said, adding that the housing ministry is yet to decide on the issue.
Other resettlement concerns include, families having had to live in two separate wards of Fonadhoo, said Azeez, as “for an example the father might have got a house from Baraaseel ward and his children getting a house from Kurimagu ward.”
Of the 85 newly built houses for Gaadhoo islanders in Fonadhoo, 40 have been built in Baraaseel ward, and the rest in Kurimagu ward.
The island council also revealed that the government has now decided to construct houses in the 23 plots and to pay rent for the families belonging to those plots for the duration of the construction.
In April of last year, Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure halted any further selling and allocation of land plots from Gaadhooo due to the planned relocation. Gaadhoo is one of the leading islands in the south to export coconuts.
Fonadhoo was identified for Gaadhoo resettlement after the islanders protested for the lack of consultations and information regarding their relocation.
Following the protest, Gaadhoo islanders submitted a set of demands to the government in August of last year, requesting they be moved to Hulhumale’ instead of Fonadhoo and to construct a mosque nearby their settlement in Fonadhoo if they are to be moved to the island and to bear their electricity bills for a period of one year – all of which have been denied so far.