Maldives says to develop six more airports in four years

Six new airports will be developed across the country, Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced Monday.

In his presidential address to the parliament, the president said airports being developed in the islands of Horafushi in Haa Alif atoll, Muli in Meemu atoll and Fares-Maathoda in Gaafu Dhaal atoll will be completed soon.

New airports will be developed in another six islands over the next four years, he added.

The president, however, did not give details.

Transport minister Aishath Nahula had earlier told local media that construction of airports on the islands of Hoarafushi in Haa Alif atoll, Funadhoo in Shaviyani atoll, Madivaru in Lhaviyani atoll, and Maavarulu in Gaaf Dhaal atoll is nearing completion.

Funadhoo airport will come into operation in February, followed by Maavarulu in March, Madivaru in April and Hoarafushi in August, she had said.

Flagship carrier Maldivian is set to begin scheduled flights to Funadhoo airport on Monday.

The airports being developed in Funadhoo, Madivaru and Maavarulu were amongst five new airports scheduled to open last year. However, the projects ran into several difficulties, with only two of the planned five airports opening in 2019.

Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) was awarded a MVR 50 million (USD 3.23 million) contract in 2018 to reclaim 21 hectares of land off the northwestern end of Funadhoo and build a 1,200-metre runway. The company had completed the runway along with an apron and taxiway in March.

Another MVR 57 million (USD 3.69 million) contract was awarded to the public company in 2018 to develop a 1,200-metre runway, a taxiway, an apron and a jetty at Maavarulu.

MTCC was also contracted in 2018 to reclaim 16 hectares of land from the lagoon of Hoarafushi and the neighbouring uninhabited island of Maafinolhu for the airport development project.

Meanwhile, Madivaru airport is nearing completion.

Kuredu Holdings, which owns and operates several resorts in Lhaviyani atoll, is investing USD 13 million to develop the airport. The project involves reclaiming some three hectares of land from the lagoon of Madivaru, building a 1.2-kilometre runway, and a training academy for aviation officials from flagship carrier Maldivian and seaplane operator Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA).

The company can develop a city hotel to incentivise the airport operation.

Lhaviyani atoll has one of the highest concentrations of tourism activity in the Maldives, with several resorts already operating in the atoll, including Kuredu Resort Maldives, Komandoo Island Resort and Spa, Hurawalhi Maldives, Palm Beach Island Maldives Resort and Spa, Atmosphere Kanifushi, Kanuhura Maldives, Fushifaru Maldives, Cocoon Maldives, Kudadoo Maldives Private Island by Hurawalhi, and Innahura Maldives Resort.

Over 1.5 million tourists from across the globe visit the Indian Ocean island nation every year to holiday in one of the 150 plus resorts and some 500 guesthouses located in all corners of the country. The multi-billion dollar tourism industry, which is the country’s main economic activity, relies heavily on the domestic transport infrastructure, especially air travel.

Maldives, the most dispersed country on the planet with 1,192 islands spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres, already has 14 airports, including four international airports. The government has contracted both local and international companies to develop additional domestic airports across the archipelago in a bid to boost tourism.

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