Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen (left) inspects the construction site of the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge in December 2016. [Photo:Sasac.gov.cn]
All the 35 piles designed to support the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge in the Maldivian capital Malé have now been completed ahead of schedule.
The bridge, being built by the China Communications Construction Company and part of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, will connect Malé with the island of Hulhulé, where the Malé International Airport is located.
The bridge project was announced in 2014 during a visit to the Maldives by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Yang Yin, Charge d'Affaires ad interim at the Chinese Embassy in the Maldives, said the bridge and related construction are set to bring significant social and economic benefits to the people of the Maldives and its visitors.
"The Maldives has the highest per capital GDP in South Asia. Its government has actively participated in China's 'Belt and Road' initiative. Infrastructure construction now leads our cooperation under the initiative, with the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge as a major example," said Yang.
Once completed, the 1.39-km-long, 20.3-meter-wide bridge will feature two lanes for automobiles, as well as lanes for bikes, motorcycles and pedestrians. It will also serve a major government project, which includes plans to relocate around 70% of the Maldives' population, currently scattered across various islands in the archipelago, to a new urban development center in Hulhulé.
The Maldivian Minister of Housing and Infrastructure, Mohamed Muizzu, says the bridge will bring much needed changes to his country.
"The Maldives is geographically in a different way compared to many countries. We have many small islands that people live on. There is a big issue in transportation between each island. Because of the difficulty in transportation between the two, we are not able to deliver development at a speed that we want. The project opens the door for development. By land you can travel between the two cities. It brings a huge change," said Muizzu.
Even though the Maldives is known as a tropical tourist destination, the local conditions that draw them, such as high temperatures and the humidity, along with radiation and salt content, have created tremendous challenges for the construction of the bridge. However, the team from the Chinese side says it has managed to customize its construction plans based on the local environment, while overcoming a number of unimaginable difficulties.
"The Maldives may be a paradise for tourists, it is also a very challenging place for such construction. But overall, to date, we have managed to tackle all the obstacles we had anticipated. Generally speaking, the construction is going well according to our plan. We have met the safety and progress requirements set out by the governments," said Liu Ling, a representative overseeing the project from China’s Ministry of Commerce.
The China-Maldives Friendship Bridge is expected to be completed sometime around the middle of next year.