The Maldives is renowned for being a great holiday destination, when the country’s name is mentioned, it inspires thoughts of luxury huts overlooking an aqua blue ocean. However, climate change may cross the country off the map completely.
The archipelago nation consists of more than 1,100 coral islands located in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It is also the lowest-lying nation on the planet. Therefore, rising sea levels as a result of global climate change have become an existential threat to the island. At the current rate of global warming, almost 80% of the Maldives could become uninhabitable by 2050, according to numerous reports from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.
“Our islands are slowly being inundated by the sea, one by one,” Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the president of the Maldives, told the U.N. Climate Change Conference, or COP26, earlier this week.
“If we do not reverse this trend, the Maldives will cease to exist by the end of this century.”
The islands home to local Maldivians, not the resort islands, have more to lose. The former president of the Maldives, Mohammed Nasheed, who is also a leading voice for climate change stated that 90% of the islands had severe erosion with 97% of the country no longer able to have fresh groundwater.
Ibrahim Mubbasir and his family live on the island of Dhiffushi. The island suffers from severe erosion and flooding occurrence has increased from 2 to 3 times a year to twice a month. The family’s well became unusable 4 years ago due to saltwater contamination. They now have to collect rainwater. Mubbasir states that they only have enough fresh water for 3 more months.
“Things that we thought would happen towards the end of the century, we are experiencing now,” Aminath Shauna, the Maldives’ minister of environment, climate change and technology, was quoted saying.
Shauna stated that over 50% of the nation’s budget is allocated to adapting to climate change. When asked what the Maldives will look like in 2050, Shauna responded, “Are you willing to take the Maldives as climate refugees? I think that’s the conversation that needs to happen.”
Rising sea levels aren’t affecting just the Maldives. Island nations all over the globe have been asking developed countries for funds since 2009. The United States, India and China, nations with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, are mostly responsible for the rapid sea-level rise.
In 2016, the Maldives lost their front line of defense when a bleaching event affected about 60% of the coral reefs, states Aya Naseem, a marine biologist and co-founder of the Maldives Coral Institute.
Without coral reefs, the islands are wide open to the rising waters. According to Naseem, there is only one realistic choice: They need to build back and protect the reefs, “because IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is predicting that by 2050 if the temperature rises 1.5 degrees Celsius, we can lose 70 to 90% of corals in the whole world.”
Research has shown that a healthy coral reef is capable of absorbing 97% of wave energy, dramatically reducing erosion, and it’s affordable, according to Naseem.
“It’s much cheaper than building a seawall. I think it costs something like $3,000 to grow a meter of sea wall where for the coral a meter of it is about $300, including monitoring and everything,” she said.
As reported by ABC News Network