The desperation was showing. The queues were long and tiresome; the sun beat down with relentless force and yet for the people with yearning in their eyes and hope in their hearts there was no giving up. They were there to pick up the papers that would give their families a chance of getting a place to call home. The Male’ Municipality’s ambitious veshi fahi Male’ program aimed at providing adequate housing and creating a favorable environment for the people of Male’ to live in, was what was causing all the frenzy.
“I am from Male’ yo and a fat lot of good that did me. I am supposed to be so lucky I am from Male’. But nothing could be further from the truth.” Ahmed Waheed 59, said, with a self deprecating shrug. “My father sold our home when I was very little and since then I have had no home. Before Male’ became the congested prison it is now, I used to live with relatives. But now they too are finding it difficult to find room for themselves.” “I am married with four children and now my grandchildren also have to be taken care of in the two small rooms I rent. What’s the big deal of being from Male? We are living like animals”. Waheed’s irate question took on a more positive note as he went on, “if points are being given for homeless people I am going to be in the forefront and I would so welcome a small plot of land from Hulhumale”. For someone who was talking belligerently with hurt helplessness, his tone took on a more softer more dreamy turn when he spoke of his eligibility of getting a place to build a house. Waheed is not alone. Heart wrenching stories of struggle and hardship, abuse and cruelty is all around, and Male’ people need something to be done for them as in giving them the absolute basic thing needed to live a decent life. The once beautiful and spacious compounds and houses that had given the Male’ans so much peace and harmony had gone and with it too the happy extended family life that was so dear to the people of Maldives.
Male’ is perhaps the most crowded 2 kilometers in the world. Despite Male’s size, it packs some astronomical figures for such a small land area. With an estimated population of 150,000, the roads are packed with 31,000 cycles, 3,500 cars, 2,500 large vehicles not to mention the many un-roadworthy bicycles that rattle by. Not that one would think so, getting a first glimpse of the island capital. The well planned, well projected façade of Male’ as the idyllic capital of an idyllic tourist destination gives the viewer a somewhat erroneous impression. The open parks, wider roads and the new tall buildings that fringe the waterfront belie the congestion and heartache that lie in the backstreets.
Real estate business is booming in Male’. For the people of Male’ the only sure proof source of income comes from rent. It had not been unknown for families to be ousted from their homes just because it was more lucrative for the owner parent to rent out the family home. The bigger landowners do have a very comfortable life style, but for the everyday guy on the road life is very hard. Either you are paying an exorbitant amount on rent or you are living in dingy condition with all your belongings and family in a single room. For the so called better offs, the land that had once belonged to the parents were now divided and sub divided amongst the children so much, that for each child to bring up a family, only a single room is all that is available. The trees, the wells and the jolies have long since disappeared and with those the harmony and family spirit.
Veshi Fahi Male’ program hit the people of Male’ with considerable force. The headlines screamed ‘President launches the Housing Project under Veshi Fahi Male’ Program,’ ‘President believes that he can now give housing for all people of Male’, and ‘the President of Male’ Municipality, Mr. Adam Maniku was quoted as saying ‘even the people from other islands who had lived in Male’ for a considerable time was also eligible to apply for housing in Male’ and Hulhumale’. Wow! It was truly music to the ears of the people who had been denied a place to call home, and the people reciprocated with hope and cheer.
Under the Veshi Fahi Male’ program, 1500 housing units and 250 housing plots were to be given out in the 1st phase of the program. The people of Male’ rejoiced. The chances were extremely favorable for most because once the person signed to give up the small bit of land, approximately land less than 300 sq feet in that person’s name, he or she will be in the priority category and hopefully would be owning land at Hulhumale’ or housing units in Male’ or Hulhumale in the very near future.
Such was hope that some people who were still pessimistic of the whole project and who were refusing to believe that housing could be possible for all, were still seen to be taking those application forms and though muttering under their breaths, were filling out the forms in case the program took off and they be left out.
Veshi Fahi Male’ project is a very ambitious and challenging project. The project paints a pretty picture that would gladden even the hearts of the most cynical skeptics. Vacated plots of land would be turned to parks and residential areas protected from the manic traffic. It looks Male’ would get the complete facelift with the reclamation and development of Gulhee Falhu reef stretching behind Villingili; and also with the development of the emerging economic zone of Thilafushi, which is expected to take the burden of hosting the Ports Authority and related offices and also Male’ harbor. It is also expected that most of the bulk of warehouses in Male’ would be re-located to these two zones, and so it would seem there will be enough room for all in the long run. Combined with Hulhumale’, Gulhee Falhu, Thilafushi and Male’ the possibilities are worth considering. The whole point of the project was to give the people who inhabit this small island of Male’ a harmonious and safe environment to live in contentment.
The government plans to build 3000 housing units in Male’ and Hulhumale, and under the first phase 1750 housing units would be made available. The Veshi Fahi Male’ program is looked upon with high hopes because a more developed Male’ would present people with more opportunity to work and build their homes for them to live in happiness and contentment. The spirit of the people had risen tenfold since the announcement of the project and in their search for contentment and happiness, affordable housing and safe environment reigns supreme. It is right and fitting that a program like Veshi Fahi Male’ is in place and the people are happy to embrace the project with hope.