Aid history
About Maldives
Effects of Tsunami
About Maldives: environment

The Maldives territory is comprised of approximately 1190 small, low-lying coral islands and innumerable reefs; together these form 26 atolls that stretch across the Indian Ocean in a vertical strip about 850km long and 130km wide.

Only 0.3% of Maldives territory is dry land however, in compliance with international law, an exclusive economic zone is exercised in neighbouring areas of the Indian Ocean.

The Maldives finds itself in a specialist position as a small island nation within a great ocean. The inability to survive self-sufficiently has been eased as closer relationships have developed with other states. In addition, the two major industries of tourism and fishing rely heavily on the maintenance and preservation of the environment. As a result strict regulations are enforced to ensure sustainability; net fishing and trawling are both prohibited in Maldivian waters however the migratory nature of the main focus of fishing, tuna, means such measures cannot be fully effective.

The tourism industry is strictly regulated and resorts are only established on uninhabited islands that the government chooses. Generally the Maldives have been praised for the minimal environmental costs of such developments however dependence on imports for the construction of resorts has caused problems of waste disposal. The expansion of resorts and growth of Male’ itself have also increased demand for building materials, as a result the mining of coral has been banned for such purposes.

Due to its geographical position and structural make up the Maldives are at acute risk from the threat of global warming. The consequences of continued temperature rises are keenly debated and the forecasted average of 5mm to 10mm rise in sea levels per year would virtually submerge the country in a comparatively short period. By its nature the Maldives feel the effects of global weather changes more keenly than anywhere else; a temporary rise in sea temperature in March 1998 resulting from the El Nino phenomenon led to devastating ‘coral bleaching’.

Book: Lonely Planet ‘Maldives.’ 5th ed, (2003)