Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Thoughts on Hithadhoo Land Use Plan.

I have been to the Hithadhoo LUP public consultation session that was conducted few days back at province office by Dr Simadh and his team. From there I learned that the outcome of a well prepared LAND Use Plan portrays the infrastructural as well as the socioeconomic developments aspired by every small community like ours.

Of course! I do not doubt that technical competency and expertise of Dr Simadh's team in land use planning. From the delivered presentations by Simadh and his team it was obvious that a strenuous amount work has already been done in collection, analysis and processing of relevant data and information about Hithadhoo. Even if these prerequisites of the LUP are complete the fact is all of that is a small part of a much bigger thing. In the end, it’s the people who actually plan and the experts simply guide and do the paper work!

Having that said, from what I know it is safe to say that land use planning should be an iterative process consisting of dialogue between all the stakeholders involved.
In fact the dialogue with the land users and those who are consequently affected due to land usage is the fundamental component of the land use plan upon which everything else depend. This is why the modern day land use planning is called a bottom up process.

Thus, in the compilation of Hithadhoo LUP every effort must be made to ensure that the community, from the grass roots to every other segment of the populace is allowed and encouraged to actively participate in the planning.

An idea I have is that various targets groups should be enticed to submit each and every single idea that occur to them under a particular theme, regardless of how ridiculous or impossible it might sound. Then only the experts will put forward their technical perspective. After considering the experts opinion the participant’s consensus becomes the decision that finally appears on the land use plan.
I think this would not only evoke a sense of belonging and attachment to the LUP within the society, but also would result in the capacity building of the participants to plan in dialogue-oriented learning and negotiation process.

I’m not oblivious of the strategic approach that would be adopted by DR Simad and his team in the differentiation of stake holders and allocating various target groups. Despite that I would like to specify a very important target group whose contribution, I believe, would be of utmost importance in building a futuristic document with a validity of 25 years or so.

Yes! I’m referring to target groups comprising of students. Students with their virgin cerebrums can present visionary ideas with boundless creativity. Their vivid imagination often begins where an adult’s imagination subdues and we all know, though intangible, how much of an asset would imagination be for a task like land use planning.

Besides this, another cause for my accentuation for student involvement is, should the land use plan be implemented, it is they who are going to dwell and enjoy the planned usage of land in all its glory. So how they envisage tomorrow’s Addu matters a lot today.

As we all know a well designed land use plan does not simply result in widened roads and zoned infrastructure. While such a plan ensures that land use is sustainable, it also should provide us with a socially desirable, environmental friendly and economically sound living in which our culture and heritage is uncompromised. While these could be the ultimate objective of Hithadhoo LUP they are inexplicit. In fact it sounds like a tailor made statement of a politician. The answers to questions of what will be where and how in the LUP is where our curiosity lies!!!

On this regard I would like to articulate my thoughts on five aspects of the Hithadhoo LUP.

1. Housing: Housing in Addu and Hithadhoo can be like anything but it should be nothing like in Mal’e. The way I see it, Mal’e is developed under a conspiracy theory rather than a Land Use Plan. From the ideas I got during the Public Consultation Session, and form hours of research I believe we should go for residential zones with the proverbial “FLAT/condo” style of accommodation. I strongly reject high-rise apartment buildings of 25 plus stories that would corrode the scenic beauty and the admirable greenery. I think 6-7 stories building would be the optimum height of these residential FLATS/condos. Provided with appropriate rules and regulations are in place, I believe that this is not only the most successful modern form of accommodation, but also the most suitable form to our island. Moreover the residents living in these condos would have the delight of convenient and economical access to schools, supermarkets, clinics, food centers and recreational facilities.

2. Transportation: The LUP when implemented should result in widened streets in Hithadhoo. The roads should be safe for both the pedestrians, vehicles and the driver. It shouldn’t challenge the principles of physics as our link road. While the highest priority should be given to the safety of the roads, access to roads must be convenient and should result in economic transportation. If there is a necessity, required structural modifications should be brought about to the link road as well.

3. Agricultural Lands: In our quest to urbanization we should not undermine the significance of agriculture or farming. In the making of Hithadhoo LUP I believe a priority should be to protect the agricultural lands we currently have in kashinara, Maamendhoo and Koattei. Further lands should be allocated to accommodate projected growth for future agricultural needs. (special thanks to Ibbe on sharing his valued opinion of agriculture in Hithadhoo)

4. Open Spaces, Scenic, Historic and Protected Areas: During the session I mentioned at the beginning, Dr Simadh proposed a very credible explanation for the disintegrating social cohesion within the Hithadhoo Community. He said that the lack of open spaces where people could gather and interact under a routine manner is the main reason for the absence of social unity contrary to many other islands of Maldives. I believe the Land Use Plan should consist of hospitable open spaces that could easily be accessed by the people. They should be green and suitable for people of all ages. Zones must be assigned to include Scenic and Historic Areas as well as Protected Areas in the Land Use Plan. They would not only serve as a sanctuary for the local people who wants to relax and temporarily escape from the tension of life but also as probable income generating resource for the local pepole that would allure visitors from all over the world. At the moment this might sound like a utopian dream but the fact is its all possible, because god has already embedded these seductive natural beauties in the geography of Hithadhoo. I’m talking about the Aari Kilhi, the Eedhigali Kilhi, even Koattei and other such places (with names I know not of) we already have in here. Rather than exploiting it we need to exhibit it.

5. Recreational Requirements: I believe one of the underlying reasons for skyrocketing of juvenile crimes and vandalism is the deficiency of recreational facilities for youth in Hithadhoo. Recreational facilities would not only aid in the development interpersonal and intrapersonal skill of our youth, but also would help them to discover their innate aptitudes and physical development. Recreational facilities should not only be limited only to those Youth Centre’s that are been established by Youth Ministry. It should rather be extended to amusement parks, sports facilities like football grounds and basket ball courts, fishing piers, and platforms, swimming and wading pools, public libraries, and gymnasiums. I suggest that in the Hithadhoo LUP land must be allocated for these facilities where they could be easily accessible. If I am to address recreational needs on a broader scale I think a golf course at GAN and a Go-Cart-Track somewhere in Feydhoo would be a delight for many people.

The public consultation held at province office has resulted in lively confabulations amongst the people. Soon it has become a hot topic that everyone had an opinion on. The Facebook group specifically launched for the discussions on the LUP, called “Addu Land Use plan” clearly depicts how varied our thoughts could be. On this particular group people with adequate know-how on the subject, has posted recommendation, ideas and probable challenges that might be encountered during the LUP and its implementation.

If we set out to really change our future and to seek a city life like that of Singapore, here in Addu, the rudimentary component we need to have is a visionary Land Use Plan. After having it, in implementing such a plan the biggest challenge I foresee is neither monetary nor geographical constraints. It is not even government’s policy. It is our willingness. It is our ability to seek change and the courage to adapt to change. It is the bravery needed to forfeit a few meters of the land plot we have inherited for generations to widen the adjacent road. It is the bold and collective decision of our family to move from the acres of land we call home to a condominium. It is been united for a common cause and in the end it is the selfless sacrifices and compromises that would decide how we reap benefits of the land use plan for generations to come.

My thoughts on Maldives at COP15

Despite our nation’s miniature population of only about 300 thousand living on tiny coral islands that are enveloped in the mightiness of the Indian Ocean, we now have gained a global reputation: It is not due to the exemplary democratic transformations that took place a year ago. Neither is it due the natural exquisiteness of our island. But it is entitled to the vulnerability of Maldives to climate change and our nation’s proactive effort to combat it.

Especially over the last year, under the rule of our enthusiastic president Mr Nasheedh more than once we have garnered the attention of international climatic institutions and environmental activist from all corners of the world. While our president established himself as a trailblazer in climatic talks our nations has also become an inspiration to countries as varied as Barbados and Tanzania to Kiribati and Rwanda that are equally susceptible to climate change.

In this context one might wonder how a country that barely appears on Google Earth is making a constant and everlasting impact on Google News. The answer is obvious. It is sometimes ridiculed but often times the pioneering initiatives of our president that has resulted in global media uttering our nation’s name. From the audacious announcement of making the country carbon neutral by 2020 to the highly acclaimed and equally castigated underwater cabinet Meeting held in May our nations’ determination to set an example for other countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change has been depicted vividly.

In a two day conference on climate change on November 9 Mr Nasheedh has said that a group of vulnerable, developing countries committed to carbon neutral development would send a loud message to the outside world." He further asked an important question “If those with the least (pollution) start doing the most, what excuse can the rich have for continuing inaction?" A question that would only be answered at the COP15 summit.

President Nasheedhs annocunment, few months ago, that he would not be able to take part in COP15 climate summit due to domestic budgetary constraint too made international headlines. But as we know now with financial assistance from UN and European Union our president too will contribute in the making of a successor document to the soon expiring 1997 Kyoto Protocol. "Copenhagen can be one of two things. It can be an historic event where the world unites against carbon pollution in a collective spirit of co-operation and collaboration, or Copenhagen can be a suicide pact.” President Nasheedh has said.

The 190 country climate change conference at Copenhagen by many is believed to the most important climatic conference of the century that would potentially save or destroy the earth. If the countries participating in the summit could not reach a decisive consensus with comprises then the efforts expended by a lot of countries like Maldives and people like the co-founder of, Bill McKibben would all be futile.

The road to Copenhagen so far has been bumpy. There has been ups and down. Both at a local level here in Maldives and at a global level. The most recent been the leaked emails of Climate Research Chief Phil Jones of University of Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. Phil Jones Data that were manipulated and exaggerated on climate change and global warming has been the basis of climate change policies made my many governments and is one of the most significant aspects of the COP15 summit.

This leaves us with the question can our presidents innovative high morale approach to COP15 would be inspiring enough to produce a favorable result that would save our nation? Or is our nation is at any risk all along?

This article was written on December 3,2009.

Tommorown Abused Leaders

An article i have written on November 19, 2009, the World Day of Prevention of Child Abuse.

Today is world day of Prevention of Child Abuse.
In simple terms maltreating a child physically, psychologically or sexually is child abuse. Child abuse, it types, and the devastating impact it has on the most vulnerable of all; children, certainly doesn’t need an introduction to most of the Maldivians. As per ministry of family and gender, in the year 2007 alone 316 cases of child abuse were reported. This number is not only statistically significant but also downright scary in a country with a population of only about 300,000.

Often times these atrocious crimes of child abuse occurs behind their supposedly safe havens, in their very homes. This makes it extremely difficult for likes of Human Rights Activists, NGOs, Watchdogs, or even police to assist the innocent victim and vice versa. Therefore whenever a child is been abused whether you are a cognizant blood relative of that child or a vigilant neighbour it is your social responsibility to take the necessary steps of alerting the authorities.

One the occasion of this year’s world day of prevention of child abuse, Human Rights Commission of the Maldives held an awareness week which commenced on November 13, 2009. The slogan of the seven day awareness program “Prevention of Child abuse- My responsibility” emphasizes on the urgency of individual roles in safeguarding children from child abuse.

In addition to HRC awareness, The Gender Ministry is also working on launching a 24 hour help line especially for children via which they can report about abuse on their own. “Even adults can dial 1412, the 24 hour helpline and report cases of abuse” says Gender Ministry official Akram. Furthermore in order to provide the required counseling and physiological help in the aftermath of abuse, the ministry has signed MOUs with relevant NGO’s.

The recently ratified ,Child Sex Abuse (special provision) act is a milestone achievement and has ignited the flame of hope in the hearts of many. Under the act those convicted of child abuse faces 25 years of imprisonment. More importantly it ensures that the grotesque side of history doesn’t repeat itself. Because not all have forgotten about the “Naseem sir” incident and the ridiculous ruling on a case where a 12 year old girl was raped by four men.

The collaborative initiation by the government institutions, NGOs, and other concerned authorities to prevent the children of our nation from been abused is of utmost importance to our nation now. Because truly it is the children of today who will be the leader of tomorrow.

Abused Children today abused leader’s tomorrow.