Coastal erosion and Government ignorance

For a country like the Maldives, which depends greatly on its natural resources and natural beauty for its livelihood and economy, ignorance seems like the worst way out of the conversation surrounding climate change.

Climate change has become an increasingly important topic of discussion over the years. As the impacts on communities in the form of unpredictable weather, and sea level rise has started posing a threat to small island nations, such as the Maldives.

In the Maldives, the effects of climate change started showing years ago with rising sea levels causing flooding, unpredictable weather conditions being more frequent and coastal erosion becoming more apparent, especially in smaller islands of the country. In July 2022, just like a lot of other Asian countries, Maldives faced an extremely stormy start to the monsoon season causing severe flooding in several islands of the country. 

And while floods come and go with seasonal changes, the lasting impacts of these extreme weathers can be seen in the coastal areas of the Maldives, the beautiful sandy beaches that many are paying thousands of dollars to come to see are facing extreme erosion.

While this might not be apparent in tourist  resorts, the reality of climate change is something locals of the country have to face every day as beach erosion becomes a bigger issue by the day, posing a threat to trees that grow near the show to tip over all fall into the ocean. 

One of the biggest problems faced by the Maldives when it comes to tackling this issue, however, is blaming coastal erosion on just climate change. With little knowledge of this impending issue faced by the country, many, including the Maldivian Government remain extremely ignorant of the huge role the coastal development as well as the growth of the tourism industry plays when it comes to the issue surrounding erosion in the Maldives.

As the Maldives faces two major issues when it comes to climate change, one of the biggest things to note is the relation between the measures taken to protect the islands from the rising sea levels as well as to facilitate the tourism industry to the worsening of the beach erosion problem. 

According to a research project by the Centre for Earth, System, research and Sustainability, after conducting numerous field studies on the causes of coastal erosion in the Maldives it was discovered that islands in the Maldives could adapt to the rising sea levels through the sand that is washed ashore, however, the construction of harbours while facilitating connectivity greatly cuts off this natural protection system leading to beach erosion. So while the tourism industry as well as the development of the nation is soaring each year, there is definitely a cost to this development and the islands are paying it.

“ We also found that existing coastal engineering structures can actually contribute to coastal erosion nearly as much as the effects of climate change itself, Atolls have very good means of naturally adapting to the rising sea level if their coral reefs are intact and the sediment is free to be transported or distributed naturally. However, the Maldivian government blames the problems solely on the effects of climate change and plans to install conventional coastal protection infrastructures to address them – in part, as a tried and proven means of receiving external funding and international aid” 
Dr. C. Gabriel David & Prof. Schlurmann – Research Project Investigates Strategies for Adapting to Sea-level Rise

The issues surrounding erosion in the Maldives is nothing new, the citizens of the country, as well as the Government, has been well aware of this issue for years but it does appear that it is becoming a much bigger problem as the years pass. And while it appears that Maldivians want a real solution to this problem, the Government continues to stay ignorant of the many pleas of island communities.

One of the islands that are facing the severe effects of this ignorance is the people of Maamendhoo in Gaafu Alifu Atoll. While many islands face the coastal erosion issue, in this particular island the erosion has started disrupting the lives of those who live near the shore.

“Houses near the island’s shore are facing severe damages due to erosion as salt water has started seeping into the households. We have asked for a solution to this problem time and time again but haven’t received any positive responses from the Government” 
Ahmed Azeez, GA. Council President.

In a desperate effort to get the attention of the Government to the extreme coastal erosion in the island, the island’s council has recently even hosted their council meeting near the eroded area. 

According to the council, an area between 300 feet and 400 feet has been submerged in Maamendhoo north area so far, while the existing area between the residential area and the coastal area will be 30-50 feet. 

Even though the Maldives has started discussions surrounding sustainability and climate change, with such severe environmental issues blatantly being ignored by the Government the question as to whether sustainability and eco-friendliness are just greenwashing terms becomes bigger by the day.

For a country like the Maldives, which depends greatly on its natural resources and natural beauty for its livelihood and economy, ignorance seems like the worst way out of the conversation surrounding climate change. The Maldivian Government needs to think fast and take some real actions to protect all its islands from the negative impacts of development and climate change before it’s too late.

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