President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, on Sunday afternoon, met with community members of Hanimaadhoo Island to discuss public opinion on the Hanimaadhoo Airport development project.
The government has said it will be extending the airport's current boundaries by adding an 853,937 square feet plot of land under its Hanimaadhoo Airport Development project. However, both the island council and its residents have voiced concern on the matter. As per the government, the additional land is most important to extend the runway, and the runway will be extended by 2,460 meters in the first phase. Further extensions are planned for ten years from now, but if the island council does not wish to grant land for the project, the airport will have to be moved to another location.
At the meeting held Sunday, President Solih highlighted the benefits of having an international airport on the island; not just for the community of Hanimaadhoo island, but for the entirety of northernmost Boduthiladhunmathi Atoll. He stated that the purpose of meeting with the island community is to listen to their concerns directly, open a dialogue and discuss ways to move forward with the project in a way that would benefit the locals.
The President also clarified certain grievances that were raised regarding the airport development project. He assured that the government would bear all financial responsibilities of the loan required to develop the airport and that its ownership would reside solely with the state. President Solih also reiterated that no foreign soldiers would be stationed at the airport premise, stating that his government would not allow any action that may hinder Maldives’ sovereignty in any way, adding that he does not believe any succeeding government would allow for it either.
The community members who took part in the meeting noted that their main concern was regarding land allotted for the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), and the expansion of the runway. They shared the alterations they wanted to see in the project with the President. In response to the community’s concern, President Solih revealed that the land had been allotted for MNDF to move its entire Northern Command to Hanimaadhoo island, as it would be more convenient to guard the northern territories and the seas of the Maldives from there. Other projects planned for the Boduthiladhunmathi Atoll were also discussed during this meeting.
Before concluding, the community members thanked the President for personally delineating project details and expressed their wishes to see the project through, noting that a large number of the locals are in favour of further developing Hanimadhoo Airport.
Following the meeting, the Spokesperson of the President's Office, Mohamed Mabrook Azeez announced via Twitter that solutions have been found for the issues regarding the extension of boundaries of the Hanimaadhoo Airport.