Housing minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu said on Sunday that the number of inhabited islands in the Maldives needs to be halved.
In a ceremony held at the customs building to handover the State land-plots within the local council’s jurisdiction, Dr Muizzu said that the government cannot fulfill the necessities of the residents to its full extent if 200 islands were inhabited. Hence he said that the relocation of inhabitants from small islands to bigger islands is needed if sustainable development is to be attained.
Minister said that the population centralization policy can take up to 10 years for its implementation to reduce the amount of inhabited islands.
“The inhabited islands in the Maldives need to be reduced. This cannot be attained within one or two days. It can take up to 10 years. We cannot reach a good destination without a good foundation laid today. We have to make plans and allocate islands to relocate the inhabitants, preparation of strategies and programs need to be conducted to change people from small islands,” Minister said.
Minister detailed that 'urban centres' can be developed by migrating small populations to bigger islands and that some of these islands had been identified. He said that it is the government's policy to change these small populations to bigger islands.
Minister further added that ten islands had been identified from north to south and that the land area can be reclaimed and infrastructure facilities can be developed to accommodate the people. However the minister did not name these ten islands.
"We have now identified about ten islands from north to south. We can reclaim the land and further develop the infrastructure and populate for a longer period of time," minister said.
He said that there are two ways in which the government can carry out the process of creating urban centres, one of which is for the government to provide housing at the urban centres or give subsidies to the people with need.
Dr Muizzu stressed that no person will be forced to leave their islands and that a whole population of an island would only be migrated to another with the majority's vote. However even without the majority's vote people can willingly migrate to these islands.
"We are carrying out these programs by discussing with the councils. Hence we request the councils to guide the people and to make them understand that these islands may not be their best option no matter how long they have lived in these islands," Minister said to the 49 island councilors present at the ceremony.