India-Maldives mega-infra project
GS 2: International Relations
- Recently, India’s External Affairs Ministervisited the Maldives and met with his counterpart Maldives Foreign Minister.
- They announced the signing of a $500-million infrastructure project, the Maldives government officially signed an agreement with Mumbai-based company AFCONS, for the construction of the Greater Malé Connectivity Project (GMCP).
- This infrastructure project, the largest-ever by India in the Maldives, involves the construction of a 6.74-km-long bridge and causeway link that will connect the Maldives capital Malé with the neighbouring islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi.
- According to India’s High Commission in the country, this project was funded by India in a grant of $100 million, with a line of credit of $400 million.
- The seeds of the project were planted during the External Affairs Minister’s visit to Malé in September 2019.
- The GMCP is concrete proof that India is a robust development partner of the Maldives in addition to being the First Responder in times of any emergency in the Maldives.
- The GMCP is not only the biggest project India is doing in the Maldives but also the biggest infrastructure project in the Maldives overall. This iconic project will give a major boost to the Maldivian economy.
- It facilitates inter-island connectivity in the country.
- Transport is a major challenge for residents who have to take boats or seaplanes to distant islands. Locals take ferries or boats. It becomes even more difficult during the monsoons when the seas are rough. This bridge that would connect Malé with the three neighbouring islands that would ease the process.
Why is it needed?
- Close to 40% of the entire population of the Maldives lives in Malé, that has an area of approximately 8.30 square kilometres, making it one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
- This prompted the current government in the Maldives to consider decentralisation and the development of other inhabited islands by equipping them with civic facilities like hospitals and other institutions, that would incentivise people to relocate to other islands, reducing the burden on Malé.
- With this bridge, transportation and connectivity to the capital city would also improve, opening up an alternative route for transport, that has been a persistent issue for the country’s people.
Why these islands?
- In the island of Gulhifalhu, a port, is at present being built under the Indian line of credit. Located some 6 kilometers from Malé, since 2016, the island has been promoted by the Maldives government as a strategic location for manufacturing, warehousing and distribution facilities due to its proximity to the capital city.
- Back then, the government had also worked on installation of basic infrastructure, high-load capacity roads, water and sewage systems, telecommunications networks and electricity grids.
- Located 7 km from the capital, the artificial island of Thilafushi was created and designated as a landfill in the early 1990s, to receive garbage created mostly in Malé.
- Over the past five to six years, the government began management of waste more effectively by using modern waste disposal methods instead of the original landfills.
- That coincided with the establishment of industrial manufacturing and warehousing facilities on this island, that transformed it into a major industrial zone. The Maldives has plans of expanding industrial work on Thilafushi, making this bridge’s connectivity to the capital indispensable for the transport of employees and other services.