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Climate Change Pushes Maldives into Uncharted Waters; Ecosystem-based Adaptation is Imperative for its Survival.


Coral bleaching 2010, Maniyafushi, 0ver 50% corals bleached but recovered causing little mortality.

In a new United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report titled, the “Working Group II Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report” released on 24 March 2014, like its past reports,  scientists predict apocalyptic consequences unless the world changes course immediately and dramatically, the fundamental systems that support human civilization are at risk.

The latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the effects of warming are “Risk of death, injury, and disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states, due to sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and storm surges.”

The effects of warming on the Maldives further push it into uncharted waters. Maldives is a coral atoll based nation and coral ecosystem adds significantly to the national economy. Maldives tourism heavily depends on the goods and services the reefs provide in addition to the coastal protection they provide.

Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years. This observed increase is primarily due to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently projected the rise of the sea level worldwide by two feet by 2100 as a result of melting ice sheets and the expanding of the sea by warming seawater.


2010, Maniyafushi, partially dead coral.

Temperature increase human induced coral bleaching.

Warming of the sea and changes to the weather pattern has been associated with coral bleaching leading to wide spread damage to coral reefs at a global scale.

Coral bleaching is caused when rising water temperatures stress the coral, forcing the coral to expel the algae it uses to obtain food and other nutrients.

When water temperatures rise even slightly (1-2 Degrees Celsius), algae leave the coral polyp causing the coral to lose its colour and eventually die due to insufficient food source.

Coral bleaching in 1998 in Maldives, severely beached 90% of hard corals in shallow waters. Bleaching was also recorded at depths in access of down to 30m. Post bleaching survey of the reefs at several location throughout the atolls across the country by Marine Research Centre showed a little over 2% on in 2004 shows recovery of 2 to 29% live coral, but the recovery extremely varies between the sites. Southern atolls showed faster recovery whereas the central and northern atoll showed slower recovery indicating regional differences in terms of reef recovery.


Bandos house reef, 2010 bleaching. A good recovery at one of the monitoring sites by MRC as part of long term monitoring of reefs initiated in 1998. The impact of 2010 bleaching was not significant since 90%of bleached corals recovered.

With IPCC predictions in increase in frequency of bleaching at global level, Maldives also witnessed coral bleaching event again in June 2010, similar to coral bleaching since of 1998 bleaching event. However, damage to the reefs due to bleaching of 2010 was far less that of 1998. Previous exposure to severe condition of bleaching may have resulted in conditioning the coral to recurrent exposure. This perceived increase in resilience is seen a positive indicator that the reefs can buffer extreme environmental pressure.

With little sign of reducing climate related pressure it is important to reduce and manage human induced pressures on these important ecosystems. Adaptation to climate change by changing the attitudes society to use natural resources at ecosystem level has always been important. The goods and services provided by the coral reefs and the pressures on these services are now been understood in the context of their capacity to natural and human pressures at ecosystem level.

Therefore, ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change is vital to Maldives to ensure these ecosystems are maintained to ensure inter generational equity.

 

Ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change is vital to Maldives

Conserving terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems and restoring degraded ecosystems should be vital for the overall goals of National Climate Change Adaption Plan for the Maldives. The atoll island ecosystems play a crucial role in providing number of ecosystem goods and services that are necessary for well-being of the people and the very survival of the islands in adapting to climate change.


Huraa Mangrove. Protected but surrounding development of various infrastructures are encroaching causing concerns.

Coral reefs act as first line of defence against wave action and storm surges and reduce coastal erosion.

Shallow Lagoon and sea grass beds of island in between the reef and beach act as second line of defence.

The coastal vegetation (Heylhi) with salt tolerant plants act as third line of defence.

Mangroves play vital role in protecting the atoll islands from coastal erosion by the waves, stop erosion and protect the islands.

Even though atoll ecosystems provide a wide range ecosystem based services, the degradation of many ecosystems due to the local human activities are drastically reducing the capacity to protect the islands, livelihood and loss of biodiversity.

The poor waste management and disposal via dumping untreated waste near coastal shores hamper coral growth and damage coral reefs. Untreated sewage into coastal areas creates potential problems such nutrient enrichment, algal blooms and eutrophication. Such situations badly upset coral reef.

It is imperative to protect the coral reefs, sea grass, coastal vegetation and wetlands to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change. Conserving island terrestrial, freshwater and marine island ecosystems and restoring degraded ecosystems should be vital for the overall goals of National Climate Change Adaption Plan for the Maldives.

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WHO SHOULD POLICE THE ENVIRONMENT?

According to the EIA Report prepared by Government Authorized Consultant (after the project was started without an EIA) the proposed Holiday Inn, Henveiru Ameeneege is designed, built and operated to worldwide standards of Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG), including the 2007 standard “green line” Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG)’s response to Global Warming.

Henveiru Ameeneege

This is the first time in the Maldives a deep pile foundation structure is constructed. This also could be the first on an atoll island too. A total of 256 x 255 mm steel H piles are to be driven into more than 100 feet of the bedrock of Male. Pile driving into the bedrock has caused noise and vibration, causing physical damages to the buildings in the vicinity. Structural damage has been observed in nearby Dharumavantha School, raising concerns about the safety of students when the new academic year opens in the second week of January.

deep pile foundation

Piling started on 16 September 2007 and continued till 22 September 2007. The work was disrupted due to public complaints of noise and damages to nearby buildings. However, permission was granted on 22 December 2007 to go ahead after carrying out an EIA.

On 2 January 2008, the project was suspended for further review by the Ministry of Environment. However, the work has been resumed on 4 January 2008 with a permission issued by Ministry of Construction and Public Works to resume the work, without consulting the Ministry of Environment, according to Television Maldives.

cracks cracks

The Environmental Protection and Preservation Act 1993 says that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be submitted to the Ministry of Environment before “implementing any activity that impact on the environment.”

Why wasn’t an EIA done before initiating the hotel project especially as this is the first time that deep piling techniques are used in the Maldives? How appropriate is this technique for a coral island? This project has shown the lack of coordination between the concerned government agencies such as Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Construction and Public Infrastructure, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Male’ Municipality. This raises the question of who should be policing the environment.

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