Home to beautiful white sand beaches and extensive coral reefs, the Republic of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean comprises 1,200 coral islands in 26 atolls over a 35,000 square miles area. It attracts over 600 000 tourists every year.
The Maldives is the flattest country on Earth with no ground surface than 9.9 feet, and 80% of the land area is below 3.3 feet above average sea level. Its lack of topography makes it one of the nations most vulnerable to rising sea level and coastal flooding.
There are 358 inhabited islands, and some 191 of them have a population of fewer than 5000 people.
About one–third of all residents live in the capital city of Malé on North Malé Atoll. With roughly 104,000 people residing within 2.2 square miles, North Malé Atoll encompasses some of the most densely populated islands.
Some infrastructure and housing in the Maldives, including five airports and 128 harbors, are concentrated along coastlines. The country’s international airports lie within 165 feet of the coastline.
The issue on the rising sea levels
The rising of sea levels is the effect of climate change. Since 1880, the average sea levels increased to over 8 inches, with about three of those inches gained in the last 25 years. Every year, the sea rises another .13 inches (3.2 mm).
Rising sea levels are associated with excessive amounts of Carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which both the atmosphere and the oceans increasingly absorb. It leads to ocean acidification, which is accompanied by a plethora of adverse effects.
Since the 1950s, sea levels in and around the Maldives have been rising. It reaches a 0.03-0.06 inches rate each year. Because of its topography, changes in the sea levels cause extensive flooding.
Two main processes cause a sea level to rise. First is due to human activities that induced warming of the oceans, steaming from heat-trapping emissions. It contributed to 25 percent on the long-term increase in sea level over the latter half of the 20th century. The other factor is the shrinking of glaciers and ice sheets worldwide.
The event also poses a threat to homes and industries in the coastlines. More than 90 of the inhabited Maldives islands experience flooding yearly, and in 2007, more than 500 houses were damaged, and over 1 600 people evacuated from their homes due to a series of swells.
Added to the stress caused by the rising sea level is the contamination of potable water. Only 11 percent of the Maldives inhabited islands had potable groundwater before the tsunami in the Indian Oceans in 2004. The scarcity of freshwater resources is even worsened. The nation provides drinking water by collecting rainwater, and it can only supply to about 87 percent of the population. Groundwater aquifers on the islands are shallow, and high extraction levels have made them vulnerable to inundation by saltwater.
There were potential measures to help the country adapt to rising seas, identified by The Maldivian Ministry of Home Affairs, Housing and Environment. It includes the protection of groundwater, increasing rainwater harvest, and increasing the elevation of critical infrastructure.
Migration is also an option for the Maldivians. In November 2008, the president announced the country’s interest in buying a new homeland. However, the approach comes at a high price, both financially and culturally.
Based on a report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sea levels could rise as much as 100 centimeters by the year 2100 and that a 90-centimeter rise would cover 85% of Malè, the capital city/island of the Maldives. (https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WG1AR5_Chapter13_FINAL.pdf)
A detailed report released by the Maldivian government ((National Adaptation Program of Action) outlines the significant threats to the country resulting from climate change. The report authors came up with 12 priority projects after consulting with several international advisors and experts. Here are the top five solutions to address the upcoming climate change issues.
1. Integration of Future Climate Change Scenarios in the Safer Island Strategy to Adapt Sea Level Rise and Extreme Weather Risks Associated with Climate Change
2. Coastal Protection of Safer Islands to Reduce the Risk from Sea Induced Flooding and Predicted Sea Level Rise
3. Enhance adaptive capacity to manage climate change-related risks to freshwater availability by appropriate technologies and improved storage facilities
4. Coastal Protection of Male’ International Airport to Reduce the Risk from Sea Induced Flooding and Predicted Sea Level Rise
5. Enhance the adaptive capacity to manage climate change-related risks to freshwater availability by appropriate wastewater treatment technologies.
The Maldives committed to becoming the first carbon-neutral country by 2020 and participated with international climate forums and the global dialog on the subject.
- Maldives (Wikipedia)
- Greenhouse effect (Wikipedia)
- Current sea level rise (Wikipedia)
- Effects of global warming (Wikipedia)