Chinese and Maldives government have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a pre-feasibility study of a proposed bridge connecting the international airport to capital Male, an official said on Tuesday.
Housing Minister Mohamed Muiz signed the MoU on behalf of the Maldivian government while the Principal of the Economic and Commercial Councilors Office Yung Vunzeong did the equivalent on behalf of the Chinese government.
Muiz said that current research programs on building the bridge as well as future feasibility assessments and design work fall under the mandate of the MoU. "The bridge project is high on the Maldivian government's priority list,"Muiz said."Most of the preparation work is now complete."
The preliminary study will be followed by a project feasibility study. Afterwards, a design plan will be determined and the two governments will explore options to finance the project.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has previously expressed his hope that the bridge would be named the "China-Maldives Friendship Bridge" during a visit to the Indian Ocean group of islands in September.
The construction of a bridge was first announced during former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's reelection campaign in 2008.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed also pledged to link Mal to its suburb islands -- Hulhumal, Hulhul, Villingili and Gulhifalhu -- via a bridge.
A 2011 feasibility study carried out by Ove Arup and Partners Hong Kong explored three options to link Mal and Hulhul, through Funadhoo Island on the north, or through two different paths on the southeastern side of Mal over the surf point to the edge of the runway on Hulhul.
Possible cost of the project is yet to be announced.