Maldives: The Indian Oceanarchipelago is already depleted of drinking water, and rising sea levels pose a threat to the islands. However, the new president has announced that his plans to relocate residents have been shelved.
Instead, President Mohamed Muizzu assures the low-lying country that ambitious land reclamation and building islands higher-level policies will help it withstand the waves. However, environmental and rights organizations warn that these actions may even increase flooding risks.
The chain of 1, 192 tiny islands is battling for survival in the midst of the climate crisis, despite being known for its white sand beaches, turquoise lagoons, and enormous coral reefs.
Citizens were forewarned by former president Mohamed Nasheed when he took office 15 years ago that they might become the first environmental refugees in history and require relocation.
He urged the Maldives to begin saving so they could purchase land in Australia, Sri Lanka, or even nearby India.
However, Muizzu, 45, declared that his people would not be leaving their country while requesting$ 500 million in foreign aid to safeguard vulnerable coasts.
Speaking from the crowded capital of Male, which is surrounded by concrete sea walls, Muizzu said to AFP,” We can do that if we need to increase the area for living or other economic activity.”
” We can take care of ourselves on our own.”
” OUT OF FRESH WATER,”
When their Pacific homeland is lost at sea, the tiny nation of Tuvalu signed a contract this month granting its citizens the right to reside in Australia.
The Maldives, however, would not take that path, according to Muizzu.
We do n’t need to purchase or even lease land from any nation, Muizzu asserted categorically.
Risk areas will be” categorised as a safe island” thanks to sea walls, he claimed.
However, less than a meter separates the Maldives from the sea in 80 % of cases.
The fate of the beach islands the tourists are after is uncertain, even though fortress-like walls ringing densely populated settlements can keep the waves at bay.
According to the World Bank, tourism makes up almost one-third of the country’s economy.
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Nasheed’s predecessor, was the first to alert the UN to the threat posed by rising sea levels connected to climate change in 1985.
By the end of the century, the Maldives would be essentially uninhabitable due to rises of 18 to 59 centimeters, according to an advisory from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC).
Already flashing red are the warning lights.
As rising salt levels seep into the land and contaminate potable water, Gayoom’s worry that his nation will run out of drinking water has already come true.
Shauna Aminath, 38, the environment minister before Muizzu’s government took office last week, stated that “every island in the Maldives has run out of fresh water.”
She told AFP that the archipelago’s 187 inhabited islets are largely dependent on pricey desalination plants.
Aminath stated that “finding ways to protect our islands has played a significant role in our efforts to adapt to these changes.”
‘IGNORED’ ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS
The environment ministry reports that Male, the nation’s capital, has 65,700 people per square kilometer and is “one of the most densely populated pieces of land in the world” with 380,000 residents squeezed onto a tiny island.
The city is already surrounded by a massive sea wall, but Muizzu claimed that it could grow elsewhere.
With sand pumped onto submerged coral platforms, reclamation projects have already increased the nation’s landmass by about 10 % over the past 40 years, covering a total area of 30 square kilometers.
Muizzu, a civil engineer with British training who served as construction minister for seven years, was instrumental in directing the growth of the man-made island of Hulhumale.
Hulhumale, which has a population of about 100,000, is twice as big as Male and is connected to the capital by an 1.4-kilometer Chinese-built bridge with tower blocks rising high above the clear waters.
However, environmental and rights organizations issue a warning that while reclamation is required, caution must be taken.
Reclamation projects were “often rushed” and lacked adequate mitigation policies, according to a recent report from Human Rights Watch ( HRW), which accused the authorities of failing to carry out their own environmental regulations.
It used the example of an airport in Kulhudhuffushi, where 70 % of the island’s mangroves were “buried,” and an Addu reclamation project that harmed the coral reef fisherman.
According to HRW, the Maldives government has violated or disregarded environmental protection laws, which has harmed island communities and increased flooding risks.
Political leaders and businessmen may have mistaken shallow lagoons for quick-profit reclamation sites, according to Ahmed Fizal, leader of the environmental advocacy organization Marine Journal Maldives ( MJM).
You must inquire as to the cap and the actual cost of reclamation. “,” he remarked.