Public petition against Fainu airport project

A public petition against government plans to develop a new domestic airport in Raa Atoll Fainu island was submitted to the tourism ministry on Tuesday.

The contract to develop the airport in Fainu island was officially awarded to Island Aviation Service (IAS) which operates Maldives' national flag carrier Maldivian in May.

Environment activists have voiced concern over the need for an airport in the picturesque island - with acres of thick vegetation set to be destroyed.

The airport at neighbouring Ifuru island, just 26 kilometers away from Fainu, can be reached in around 25 minutes by speedboat.

Speaking to local reporters, a Fainu resident Mohamed Waheed said though 140 Fainu residents had signed the petition, hundreds more are extremely concerned by the project.

The lack of information about the project remains a matter of huge concern among the island residents, Waheed said.

"We still don't know how much land they would be taking. We've heard whispers that they would also build city hotels along with a training and other facilities. Then a drawing of their plans was leaked. That's when the people realized what exactly was being planned," Waheed explained.

He also said the island residents on farming to support their livelihoods and they remain concerned over losing agricultural land to accommodate the project.

IAS has planned to to fund the USD8 million (MVR123 million) project by selling air tickets in advance to the resorts in Raa Atoll along with tourism giant Universal Resorts

The project divided into three phases is set to be completed in 12 months.

According to IAS, the first phase would include the runway and the terminal. The remaining phases would see the company develop two city hotels, a medical centre, an aircraft hanger and a staff training facility.