Those who haven’t been keeping themselves updated on global efforts in dealing with environmental threats wouldn’t realize that a startling revelation has surfaced in the form of the Maldives’ situation becoming the most talked-about issue at global forums. This heavily toured island nation is perhaps closer to climate-induced extinction than most of us can contemplate. Earlier it was estimated that a considerable, presently inhabited, portion of Maldives would completely sink by 2100 but now most environmentalists believe that these estimations might have been too conservative.
A significant portion of Maldives’ shoreline is sinking, every year and the threat to is inhabitants is very palpable. Maldives has been continuously threatened by rising sea levels over the last 15 years. The waters surrounding the Maldives island groups have been steadily rising at the rate of nearly 1 mm, every year over the past decade.
Nearly 90% of its islands are under the one square kilometer mark and this raises the probability of the islands being sunk owing to the most marginal rise in tide volumes. Further, a large number of Maldives’ populated pockets are actually atolls, i.e. small islands in vicinity of volcanic lagoons that are extremely vulnerable to the slightest of changes in oceanic currents.
The situation is deteriorating with every passing day, and although mass evacuations haven’t been ordered, there has been a constant migration of people away from the dipping coastal lines, rendering a major strain on the nation’s economy. In 2004, the nation had faced a destructive tsunami — one of the first major 21st century tsunamis in the Asia-Pacific region that are now occurring with shocking regularity.
Property and human damage was extensive and the national losses amounted to more than $300 million. It has now been established that a sea level rise of just about one meter is sufficient to wash-away more than 80% of Maldives — a statistic that should be frightening enough to liquidate international help.
Therefore, it isn’t surprising that Maldives was among the first nations to have signed the highly anticipated Kyoto Protocol — an international forum that seeks serious efforts from member nations to provide solutions for slowing down global warming trends.
Economic Crisis Worsens The Situation
The economic status of Maldives has been hammered over the past decade due to the never-ending expenditures precipitated by the constant need to protect its vulnerable seashores against the violent oceanic currents. The recent economic downturn has made things even worse for Maldives and the surrounding archipelago islands that until recently were rolling in foreign currency splurged by European tourists. It must have been a humiliating moment for its citizens when the President of Maldives declined to make an appearance at the UN Climate Change Forum 2009, recently hosted at Copenhagen.
The Maldivian President very categorically substantiated that the nation just wasn’t in a position to ‘sponsor’ such trips. He was indirectly pointing to the fact that the fight against rising sea levels influenced by global warming was proving to be such a strain on the national budget that such savings were mandatory.
Some members of the President’s office were quick to put forth a face-saving exercise when they issued a statement that the President had made the statement to sensitize the citizens towards the cost-saving initiatives that had been recently undertaken by the government.
Maldives has never taken any substantial, long-term steps to ensure that its sinking shores were protected against the surrounding seas. The policy has always been to spend a certain amount, every fiscal to ensure that there aren’t any obvious risks posed to the tourists and the loss to native human life and flora is prevented, i.e. this problem was acknowledged and addressed to some extent but it no one actually tried to find a cure.
Now, some initiatives have been undertaken to address the financial crisis in the nation and to ensure that effective measures are introduced for saving the sinking islands. Some of these efforts include changing over to using wind and solar-powered systems. This would help Maldives earn carbon credits which can later be traded to buy crucial rations from the EU.
Considering that Maldives has a GDP deficit of nearly 34%, it might be a bit too fanciful to believe that any portion of these earnings will be diverted towards strengthening the shores rather than feeding the local population.
Maldives has also been a caretaker of sort for many smaller, rather unknown, miniscule Indian Ocean islands that face a threat as grave as that of Maldives. It is frightening to imagine the extent of the problem on these islands that have limited access to most basic, modern-world amenities.