By Luke A. Heslop
It took 6 million metric tons of sand to construct the first phase of Hulhumalé, otherwise known as ‘Youth City’. This was dredged from a stretch of ocean between Malé and an island where the capital’s rubbish is taken to be burned. The sand was then poured onto a sea grass lagoon until it emerged from the ocean at a height of 1.5meters and was subsequently flattened by dozers. What had been a nursing ground for black tipped sharks, turtles, and stingrays is now the sediment foundation of Hulhumalé, a 188-hectare blank canvas on which ‘Youth City’ is to be realised. Hulhumalé had been ostensibly designed to provide affordable housing in response to the population swell in Malé. A common yet more sinister reading of these developments is that – with its proposed shopping malls and ‘world class’ hospital – the idea of Youth City has been conjured to lure in the inhabitants of distant islands, thus freeing-up commercially valuable land to be sold off as freehold. The creation of Youth City, brings into focus the sheer scale of what can be termed the ‘built environment’, offering a fairly radical example of high-modernist projects of urbanity from the perspective of a metropolis in its infancy. This paper offers a snapshot of the developments taking place in Youth City and brings forward images and voices from a place where both infrastructure and aspiration are under construction.
*A presentation given at the: The International Conference on the Humanities 2016: “New Directions in the Humanities: Our Engagement with the Environment”. Kaleniya University. 6-7 October 2016.