12 Kasım 2008 Çarşamba

The Search of the Sinking Paradise for a New Homeland

Today the Maldives is facing a potential environmental catastrophe due to estimated rise in sea levels. In the Maldives, over 80% of the land is less than 1 meter above mean sea level. So climate change and consequently the slightest rise in sea level will prove extremely threatening with devastating consequences for life in the Maldives. Stretching across the Indian Ocean, The Maldives comprises of 1191 islands, of which approximately 250 are inhabited. Although the Maldives contributes minimally to the global greenhouse gas emissions, it is among the most prone to the climate change and its associated impact. While high income OECD countries account for almost half of all emissions with just 15% of the world’s population, the Maldives' contribution remains 0.001%.

Of immediate concern are the direct impacts of climate change on sustainable living in the Maldives. As sea level rises, the availability of groundwater is expected to decrease, leading to a profound impact on the sustainability of livelihoods. The tourism industry relying heavily on the marine ecosystems is also under threat from the impacts of climate change. An increase in temperature is expected to bring down the reef growth and disrupt the reef ecosystems.

In the Maldives, the coral reefs serve as natural breakwaters. Any potential damage to the coral reefs may ruin the natural protection of the islands from the waves and currents, and make the islands more vulnerable against other coastal damages such as beach erosion. In addition, increased seawater temperature poses a threat to coral reef biodiversity by leading to coral bleaching.

Fishery is also expected to suffer from the impacts of climate change. In the Maldives, tuna fishery is the most prioritized marine sector with significant contributions to the Maldives economy. A possible change in temperatures can drive the mostly migratory tuna stock to more accommodating temperatures. This may potentially lead to a decline in the practice of fishery as the fishermen may loose their fishing grounds.

Precautionary measures are essential to save the Maldives and many other low lying island states who face similar challenges. In order to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, pilot projects have been commissioned on alternate sources of energy. However, high installation costs and lack of technical back up have undermined the efforts towards wide use of solar and wind power. In addition, the existing wind speeds were determined to produce a marginal contribution for electricity generation, unless high towers were erected at high capital cost.

Other initiatives have been designed and implemented in areas such as coastal protection, freshwater management and coral reef protection. A defensive wall was built around the capital, Male, in order to protect it from sea surges. Forestation has been encouraged to prevent beach erosion, while a marine cleaning initiative was ignited to free coral reefs from litter and debris. Yet all these efforts have been aimed at mitigation of the impact rather than prevention it.

The former Maldives government stated that it has initiated talks with several countries about a possible relocation plan to a new homeland. Land, currently owned by Sri Lanka and India were identified as possibilities as these countries have cultures, cuisine and climate similar to those of the Maldives. Australia was also being considered because of the vast unoccupied land it owns. The studies show that the majority of the Maldives residents are opt to evacuate over the next 15 years while those remaining are expected to be forced to the same.

The Maldives is a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and ratified it on 9 November 1992. Maldives is also the first country to sign the Kyoto Protocol on 16 March 1998. Despite the Maldives’ government’s call on global action on climate change and the country’s minimal contribution to global GHG emissions, today, the growing threat of climate Change on livelihoods is taking its toll on the sinking paradise.

UNEP, State of the Environment Reporting, Maldives, pp. 29-35, 2002.
UNDP, Human Development Report, Maldives, 2007.
CNN/Environment, "Sinking island's nationals seek new home," 11/11/2008.

Written by Zeynep Basak 2008. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the author's permission.

1 yorum:

amca-Nyenge dedi ki...

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