These days, the talks of creating other cities like Male’ is the buzz word. Nobody knows how the Majlis will decide on the issue of granting, another island(s), except Male’, city status by law. The purpose of this post is not to marvel, at the sincerity and commitment of those Mps (especially from the atolls) to meaningful regional development. The million dollar question is do we really want to repeat the Male’ experience?
Male’ is the health capital, educational capital, infrastructure capital, industry and commerce capital, political capital ...etc of the Maldives. The residents and non-residents alike are paying the price of someone putting all eggs in one basket by squeezing everything under the sun in this tiny place. There seems to be no end to the rat race for using each and every square meter of land in Male’ for housing shops, offices, Godowns, workshops.....The trees, sun and fresh air have no place here and the ‘ sunny side of life ’ belongs to tourists only, in this part of the Maldives.
To make it worse, the generations who started families before 30-35 years have to worry about housing for their children, grand children, and even great -great children. The children have nowhere to go except -the sea maybe? Thus each and every person who has even a tiny bit of land wants a 10 storey building that may not be even fit for chickens and pigeons, no matter how shiny and velvety, the inside is! It is sad to say, but Male’ could be, one of the most expensive concrete junkyard in the world! Previous governments (even current power brokers in the parliament - except one member maybe) gave a blind eye to the situation. For instance, we inherited countless regulations on food safety, cleanliness and selling expired items but no such thing to regulate housing for dwelling purposes.
The previous government initially did try to ease the burden on the City of Male’ and its permanent residents by committing to development of regions and reclaiming land in Male’ itself, followed by villingil and Hulhumale’. Again the objective of this post is not to talk about what went wrong with meaningful regional development or how much of the reclaimed land for Male’ were used fairly and equitably, to provide housing for the residents of Male’.
I guess when you really think about it, none would want to repeat the Male’ experience because progress of any kind at the cost of trees, sun, fresh air, open spaces, quite residential areas separate from commercial hubs is not worth the price.
There are so many lessons to be learned by developing regions and cities in the story of Male’. Future councils and planners need to think before making another million dollar mistake by concentrating each and every service in one island. Even the people in bigger islands need to embrace the idea of moving for specialized services; They can go to India for medical purposes and Malaysia for education -right! There is no reason why similar movement within the Maldives cannot be generated. After all sea is part of our life. Perhaps that’s what people are saying in this referendum. We do not want to repeat the Male’ experience!