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Save the Maldives: New Regime Turns to Tourism, Artificial Islands to Combat Rising Waters

Mar 22, 2017 06:36 AM EDT
Maldives Battles With Rising Sea Levels
The Maldives, located in the Indian Ocean, is the world's lowest-lying country, with no part lying more than 2m above sea level and more than 80 percent of its scattered islands less than one meter above sea level. The island nation's future is under threat from anticipated Global sea level rise, caused by global warming, with many of its islands already suffering from coastal erosion.
(Photo : Aishath Adam/Getty Images)

In the age of climate change, Maldives finds itself at the mercy of the environment. The tropical paradise has become one of the most vulnerable places in the world in the wake of perpetually rising waters and coral bleaching that could transform the idyllic island nation into uninhabitable land.

While the former administration famously announced their plans to buy a new homeland to relocate the people of Maldives, the new regime led by president Abdulla Yameen is turning to a different arena to save the country from the perils of climate change: tourism.

According to a report from The Guardian, the nation will be focusing on mass tourism and mega-developments. There are plans to geo-engineer artificial islands, relocate populations to the larger existing islands and leave the smaller islands for modern developments, such as 50 new swanky resorts by 2018 that are expected to attract millions more tourists.

"Tourism and resorts may be the saviour of the Maldives," Shiham Adam, director of the government's Marine Research Centre, explained. "The Maldives needs money to survive. Resorts are very positive for the environment. They offer better protection than community islands because they must protect at least 700m all around them. They become mini marine reserves."

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Almost one in every three of Maldives' 185 inhabited islands may be abandoned as the government ushers people to relocate to the larger islands that can provide a better standard of living: schools, health clinics and water, among other factors.

Also in the works is the City of Hope, which is being built on the artificial island Hulhumale near Male, according to a report from New Scientist. The process of building the city involves sand being pumped from nearby atolls to the shallow reefs surrounding the original lagoon. It's going to be fortified with walls three meters above sea level, which makes it higher than the highest natural island in the nation. The City of Hope is expected to be finished in 2023 to accommodate around 130,000 people.

Adam said that reclaiming such islands is the key to dealing with the problems of climate change. Eight similar islands have already been built, while three more are underway.

"Development and reclaiming of islands are necessary," he added. "People must have land to live on and they must have jobs. It is possible to reclaim any island. We have seen that it takes just four weeks to reclaim about 24 hectares of land."

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