The Republic of Maldives is an independent country which is located in the Indian Ocean. It is made up of about 1200 small coral islands, most of which are uninhabited. There are roughly 200 islands in the Maldives on which people live. Only about 20 of the inhabited islands have populations of more than a thousand people.
The Republic of Maldives is the flattest country on Earth. There is no point anywhere in the Maldives higher than 3 meters above sea level. In fact, over 80% of the country is below 1 meter above sea level. This makes the country especially vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by global warming. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “The Global mean water level in the ocean rose by 0.14 inches (3.6 mm) per year from 2006 to 2015”. If sea levels continue to rise, the islands of the Maldives could be almost completely submerged by 2085.
Right now, the Republic of Maldives is struggling to find ways to cope with the reality of rising sea levels. When there are storms, many of the islands experience flooding from storm surge. Some islands experience flooding sometimes during high tide.
Coastal erosion is a very real threat. Parts of some islands are being eroded away by wave action. Most homes and other infrastructure such as airports are found along the coastline. As sea levels rise these these structures come under threat.
Much of the fresh water in the Maldives comes from aquifers. As sea levels rise, salt water from the sea can make its way into the aquifers. Then there would be less fresh water available for the people of the Maldives. Salt from sea water has also contaminated farmland, causing farmers to lose crops. Watch the videos below which show some of the effects on seal level rise in the Maldives.
Dealing with Rising Sea Levels
The government of the Maldives has developed some strategies for dealing with rising seal levels caused by climate change. A 3.5 meter sea wall has been built around the the island of Male, the capital. This massive project was built with the aid of the government of Japan. This wall helped protect the island of Male during the 2004 tsunami.
An artificial island called Hulhumale has been built 8 km northeast of Male. Construction began in 1997. The island is now more than 2 meters above sea level. Phase one was completed in 2002 and the island received its first 1000 inhabitants in 2004. Another phase was completed in 2015. By the end of 2019, there were 50,000 people living on this artificial island. It is hoped that Hulhumale will have over 200,000 residents by the mid 2020’s. There are plans to build more artificial islands in the future. Take a virtual tour of Hulhumale by watching the video below.
There are also plans to increase rainwater harvesting so that the people of the Maldives would not need to obtain fresh water from the aquifers.
If sea levels continue to rise, the government of the Maldives plans to relocate some of its people. Residents on some of the more vulnerable islands will be moved to other locations in the Maldives including Hulhumale.