Minister of Construction and Infrastructure Abdulla Muththalib has stood by the government’s decision to initiate the construction of an airport on Nilandhoo Island, Faafu Atoll, despite its proximity to Magoodhoo Island where a new airport is nearing completion. At a press briefing on Thursday, Muththalib emphasised that the government perceives no economic disadvantages in developing a new airport just a short 15-minute boat ride away from the existing one.

Muththalib highlighted that the decision to develop an airport on Nilandhoo Island aligns with the desires of potential investors in the area. He said the announcement caused some friction between the residents of both islands; however, the government does not intend to interfere in the disputes between them.

“If we want to lengthen the runway on Magoodhoo, its expansion cannot surpass 1,800 meters. Yet, when we focus on Faafu Atoll, it is a region that has previously drawn investment proposals,” the minister stated. “Presently, investors are expressing interest in the Nilandhoo lagoon and its adjacent areas. Two sectors of the lagoon have already been acquired by an investor for tourism development.”

Muththalib emphasised the necessity of an airport to cater to the demands of investors, including private jets and direct flights, and pointed out that Nilandhoo Island can accommodate an airport with a 2,500-metre runway, meeting the requirements of the numerous tourist resorts in the nearby Dhaalu Atoll.

Acknowledging the progress of the Magoodhoo airport project, which is approximately 75 percent complete, Muththalib addressed the concerns of the residents, emphasising that there were no economic drawbacks in having two airports in close proximity to each other. Furthermore, he revealed the Maldives National Defence Force’s need for an airport dedicated to the operation of military drones, suggesting the potential use of the Magoodhoo airport for such purposes.

Once an airport on Nilandhoo is developed to handle international operations, the government will decide on the optimal utilisation of the airport on Magoodhoo Island, he added.