COLOMBO: In the Maldives, which is a cluster of small islands, extra space for a growing population and a developing economy can be created only by reclaiming land from the sea or by creating a new island.

Since 2015, the Abdulla Yameen government has been building an ultra-modern but entirely green “Youth City” in Hulhumale, an artificial island 8 km from the Maldivian capita lof Malé.

Reclamation work started in 1996 and the first phase was completed in 2002. Since it was under-utilized, a second phase was started in 2015 with definite plans for maximum use.

Huluhumale will now house a modern city accommodating the growing population of the Maldives. It will provide green facilities including environmentally-viable transport options and architecture.

It is connected to the International Airport in Male by a causeway.

Alongside a youth-focused residential accommodation and an international cruise terminal, Hulhumalé will also offer recreational areas such as a yacht marina, Olympic-sized swimming pool, water theme park, sports arena, football and cricket stadia as well as a music and arts institute.

After completion of these projects, the aim is to provide housing for more than one-third of the total population of the Maldives, which is 416,000.

Speaking to the media, the Maldivian Attorney General Mohamed Anil said this is a very exciting time for the Maldives with a number of key infrastructure developments taking place during 2018 and beyond, which will benefit both tourists and the local community.

“Our tourism industry is continuing to expand and with 10 new hotel resorts opening during the next few years, we look forward to being able to accommodate even more visitors from overseas,” Anil said.

The announced plans include: expansion of the recently rebranded Velana International Airport, and the opening of the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge in July 2018 as well as development plans of the health services in the Maldives, providing world-class medical care to both the community and the tourism industry for 2018.

The new developments in the Maldives will support the increasing demand for tourism to the island nation.

Western tourists form the bulk of arrivals in the Maldives, despite adverse international media reports about the political situation in the country, and false propaganda about Islamic radicalization of the youth.

For example, the UK continues to be an important inbound market with 68,007 British passport holders visiting the country between January and August 2017.

“This figure accounts for 7.6% of all tourists visiting and is the second highest share across all inbound markets for this period,” Anil pointed out.

Following its rebranding in January 2017, and to help handle an increasing number of visitors to the Maldives, the Velana International Airport in Male is currently embarking on an impressive infrastructure development, including a new passenger terminal, expected to be completed in 2019-20.

In mid-2018, the airport will also open a new 3,400-metre-long, 60-metre-wide Code-F runway that will allow the airport to accommodate the world’s largest passenger airliner, the Airbus A380, with the aim to cater for seven million passengers per year.

Once completed, the existing runway will be used as a taxiway, reducing the turnaround time of aircrafts at the airport.

Formerly known as Ibrahim Nasir International, the main international airport in the Maldives was rebranded as Velana International Airport on 1 January 2017 to pay homage to the family name of Ibrahim Nasir, a former President of the Republic of Maldives who brought independence to the nation and opened the first Maldivian Airport at Hulhulé island in April 1966.

The developments at Velana International Airport will help increase the number of tourists arriving in Maldives along with improving the standard and quality of services provided to its customers.

The China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, set to be completed and inaugurated in July 2018, will be a welcome addition to the Maldives’ infrastructure.

The 1.39-kilometre-long and 20.3-metre-wide bridge will span from Malé’s eastern edge to the western corner of the island of Hulhulé, where Velana International Airport is located.

The bridge project, which was launched in 2015 and is the first project of its kind in the Maldives, will provide two lanes for four-wheeled vehicles as well as separate lanes for bicycles, motorcycles, and pedestrians.

Construction of the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge began in 2016 and following its completion in mid-2018, the bridge will help to improve inter-island transport and economic development in the region by providing a reliable land connection for locals and holidaymakers between the capital Malé, the airport and the new youth city Hulhumalé.

The expansion of health services at the country’s main government hospital, Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), will include a new 25-storey building, which is expected to open in 2018.

Furthermore, a brand new tertiary hospital named TreeTop Hospital is to be opened later this year in Hulhumalé.

Along with transforming the healthcare landscape of the Maldives and creating several employment opportunities, the expansion plans will provide tourists and the local community with world-class medical services and health facilities.