The biggest dredger in the Maldives, Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC)’s ‘Mahaa Jaffar’ on Wednesday docked at the island of Kulhudhuffushi in the northern Haa Dhaal atoll.
MTCC’s new hopper dredger had reached the island at around 3pm on Wednesday, its CEO Ibrahim Ziyath revealed.
The USD 36 million, custom-made dredger is to set off the controversial land reclamation project for the island’s domestic airport as its first venture.
MTCC had acquired a convertible loan from the state to pay the USD 11 million advance for the construction of the dredger.
The government had initially planned to develop the airport on the seaward side of Kulhudhuffushi; however the location was switched to the mangrove area over lack of sufficient land area on the seaward side.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the government proposed airport development project has stated that the wetland area is listed as a ‘environment sensitive area’ due to the unique environmental features of the area.
The EIA had advised the government to relocate the endangered species that inhibit the mangrove to a place with similar environmental conditions before commencing the reclamation project.
According to Ziyath, the material needed for the development of the airport was shipped to the island four days ago and the company is “ready to commence the project even now.” However, he said that they are waiting for technical matters to be resolved before the reclamation project begins.
MTCC will earn roughly MVR 53.4 million from the airport development project in the Maldives’ north.
Since the EIA for the project had advised the government to relocate the species that inhibit the mangrove, the Regional Airports authority has asked the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out the recommendations accordingly.
The EIA had estimated that the species can be moved in three to four months.
Meanwhile, the government is also required to provide at least a month for the public to submit their opinions before the EIA is fully finalised.
The government’s revelation that the wetlands will be reclaimed for the development of a domestic airport had sparked outcry from the island’s residents, as well as environmentalists across the nation.