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Too Little Too Late: The Maldives

Situated off the south coast of India the 1000km long archipelago of the Maldives consists of almost 1200 islands and 26 atolls forming a truly stunning exotic location. Its richly biologically diverse coral reefs, spectacularly beautiful beaches and intriguing island wildlife is enough to entice any traveller or holiday maker. But for how long will this apparent paradise remain?

Image courtesy of Frontier’s Maldives Projects

With the onset of global warming in full swing, the oceans surrounding the lowest country in the world could well swallow up the utopia. Sadly this isn’t the only threat to the Maldives; the sea temperatures are rising and the ocean pH is changing, which is bad news for the coral reef on which most of the islands are built upon. The delicate ecosystem of the coral reef also faces severe threat from pollution and over fishing. Due in part to foreign influence from China, the export and consumption of various types of sea creature including sea cucumbers, groupers and snappers has escalated and become an essential crutch supporting the fragile and greatly depleted economy of the country. Additionally the other mainstay of the country’s GDP is tourism, and with plans to build more resorts which will cause more pollution and destruction to the reefs, it’s looking rather grim for the Maldives and Maldivians.

Image courtesy of Frontier’s Maldives Projects

The Maldives was devastated by a tsunami on the 26th of December 2014, causing $400m USD worth of damage and killing 102 Maldivians and 6 tourists. The likelihood of further storm surges and tsunamis is predicted to increase. So what are the government and other organisations doing to preserve and protect this precious habitat and home to 400,000 people? Until quite recently, sand dredging and farming of the coral reef for jewellery was permitted but thankfully this has ceased. The Maldives has stated that it will strive to be carbon neutral by 2020, and there are now 31 protected areas across the islands. Many conservation projects are run on the island with the majority involving diving and combined with the other initiatives mentioned, there is progress. However, former President Mohammed Rasheed recently stated that, “If carbon emissions continue at the rate they are climbing today, my country will be underwater in 7 years.” This is undoubtedly the primary concern and threat to the Maldives and requires immediate action across the globe. By embracing renewable energy sources both in the Maldives and in heavily polluting developed countries, perhaps no Maldivian will be forced to become a climate refugee.

Image courtesy of Frontier’s Maldives Projects

So what can you do to help? As mentioned earlier the need for volunteers and environmentalists on the island is high, as much of the ecosystem needs monitoring and protecting. The large area the country covers makes much of the work needed to be carried logistically difficult, but the rewards are huge. For one you are privileged to be on the front line of environmental work through essential conservation projects being run on what is undeniably one of the most poignant examples of climate change in action anywhere in the world. Secondly you get the chance to live in an island paradise amongst a unique culture before potentially it becomes impossible. With your help and action, perhaps this is one fight that can be won against climate change due to global warming, one island at a time.

By Jack Plumb

If you want to make a difference to the Maldives and its people, get on one of Frontier's Maldives Projects.

Frontier also runs over 300 dedicated conservation, community and adventure projects worldwide. Why not have a look at our other projects and internships or find out more about great ideas for your gap year, and opportunities to volunteer across the globe.

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