Work has started on Providence Island to provide the island with a concrete airstrip, in order to open up the island to development.
Providence Island is at the northern limit of the Farquhar group and lies 330 miles from Mahé, with an area of 157 hectares. At present it can only be accessed by boat and this has severely limited its development.
Providence was run as a copra island from the middle of the 19th century up until 2006, when cyclone Bondo destroyed most of the buildings and about 60% of the coconut trees. It was the last island of Seychelles to cease commercial copra production.
IDC built a grass airstrip on the island following the cyclone, but this proved to be too unstable for aircraft because of the very fine sand that exists there. No extra funds were available at the time to put in a hard surface, and thus the island was abandoned as without a proper landing strip no tourism development was possible.
However earlier this year, discussions were held with President’s Office for the government to partly fund the installation of the hard surface, and SR 5.0 million was approved by the National Assembly within the supplementary budget in October.
IDC has thus brought in a construction crew late last month and since then, the workers have been clearing the previous landing strip of casuarina and coconut trees which have colonised the area. Progress has been quick and most of the 1300 m runway has now been cleared of vegetation. The strip is already level – because of the previous work done in 2008/2009 and concreting will start during the course of next week.
A presence is definitely required on this island as it is presently a haunt for poachers and the atoll is also probably used as a transit point for drugs. The southern islands of the Providence group (Cerf Island) is only some 180 nautical miles from Madagascar.
Once the new airstrip is in place, IDC will set up the village for its staff and prepare for a tourism development project. The surrounding reef flats are known to be a world-class destination for fly-fishermen. A viable fishing venture can also be considered as the area surrounding the various reefs is rich in commercial species.
IDC will actually launch the Expression of Interest for businesses interested in developing a tourism project on Providence soon.