City of Peril

City of Peril Male has loose build­ing reg­u­la­tions which ex­pose dwellers to un­seen dan­gers.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Sam­ina Wahid

The cap­i­tal city of the Mal­dives, Male is the coun­try’s largest ur­ban cen­tre in terms of pop­u­la­tion, in­fra­struc­ture and de­vel­op­ment. In fact, Male is one of the most densely pop­u­lated cities in the world with a third of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion liv­ing in this tiny city with a to­tal area of 5.8 square km. The city is heav­ily ur­ban­ized with its built-up area tak­ing up es­sen­tially its en­tire land­mass. Many Mal­di­vians and for­eign work­ers liv­ing in other parts of the coun­try find them­selves in oc­ca­sional short-term res­i­dence on the is­land since it is the cen­ter of ad­min­is­tra­tion and bu­reau­cracy. A large num­ber of peo­ple from across the coun­try live in rented apart­ments in the con­gested cap­i­tal. Ac­cord­ing to the 2014 cen­sus, the pop­u­la­tion of the Mal­dives stands at 341,256 peo­ple, of which 133,019 live in Malé.

One of the most press­ing so­cial is­sues of rapid ur­ban­iza­tion in Male is ur­ban con­ges­tion and lack of safe hous­ing for the ever-in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion. As a con­se­quence, many Mal­di­vians rou­tinely suc­cumb to ac­ci­dents, given the rick­ety na­ture of the houses. Just re­cently, an eight- month-old tod­dler died when she fell down an open el­e­va­tor shaft with her grand­mother from the sixth floor of a res­i­dence in Male. Ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports, the open­ing of the el­e­va­tor shaft was pre­vi­ously se­cured with a three­foot con­crete slab but it had re­cently been re­moved to in­stall an el­e­va­tor. Such in­ci­dents are com­mon in Male where hous­ing safety re­mains low on the pri­or­ity list of the gov­ern­ment.

The Min­istry of Hous­ing, how­ever, claims that it is­sues per­mits for oc­cu­pa­tion af­ter con­duct­ing safety in­spec­tions of build­ings. Of­ten, build­ing

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