The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently projected in its latest report, 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.

If the IPCC projection is accurate, the white beaches of the Maldives could start to dissolve just like ice sheets into the warming water of the Indian Ocean.

A Typical Low-Lying Atoll Island of Maldives

Mohamed Nasheed, who was recently sworn in as the country’s first democratically elected president told a British newspaper “We can do nothing to stop climate change on our own and so we have to buy land elsewhere,” namely Sri Lanka, India and Australia, as possible spots for a refuge and said they have been receptive to the idea. He also said “It’s an insurance policy for the worst possible outcome”. “We do not want to leave the Maldives, but we also do not want to be climate refugees living in tents for decades,” he added.

President Nasheed plans to set aside some of the country’s $1 billion annual tourist revenues to acquire what could be described as a contingency country. President Nasheed intends to create a sovereign wealth fund to relocate the population, much like Arab states have done with oil revenues. “Kuwait might invest in companies–we will invest in land,” he said.

The Maldives lies in a strategic position astride and along major sea lanes in the middle of an old trade route in the Indian Ocean where US$200 billion of the world’s maritime passes through every year and possesses a unique island culture and customs. But the big question is whether the natives of these islands who have lived in harmony with the ocean for more than 2000 years could easily abandon their islands just like that and relocate the entire atoll nation to higher grounds elsewhere.


Contingency adapted island with 3 meters elevation. As projected by IPCC the sea level will rise by 2 feet by 2100.

As projected by IPCC the sea level will rise by 2 feet by 2100. An average Maldivian island is less than a meter above sea level.

Almost 80% of the islands of the Maldives are just 1 meter or less above sea level and the natives of these low-lying coral islands do not have much of a choice, except for the adaptation of their islands or out migration to higher grounds elsewhere. But the choice should be left to the individuals to make – whether to stay in adapted sinking islands or to migrate elsewhere.

Over the longer term, in order to accommodate the climate IDPs (internally displaced persons), at least seven adapted contingency islands need to be developed in seven different regions across the archipelago of the Maldives. In actual fact, all the resort islands in the Maldives could be adapted as water villages or boat houses, but developing all 200 inhabited islands as elevated adapted islands is a formidable task.

Of course, as a matter of principles Bluepeace does not encourage dredging and reclaiming lagoons. However, in a doomsday scenario with not many other choices, developing elevated adapted islands that may be the only solution left in a country’s climate contingency plan. But certain measures such as importing sand and other materials for reclamation and using silt fences to control sediments need to be taken to minimize the ecological damage to the existing local environment.

A model of a contingency adapted island with 3 meters elevation where buildings are developed on stilts to reduce the strength of floods and extream storm events on the manmade island. As projected by IPCC,  the sea level will rise by less than a meter by 2100 but the contingency adopted island would still be more than 2 meters above the sea level . This island would also increase the country’s fresh water availability by developing  large groundwater table.

What is so sad is that there are still no signs that the developed nations will agree to the terms of the adaptation funds created in the Bali climate change talks. Developed nations should help the contingency country of the Maldives to develop at least seven elevated islands in different parts of the country as contingency islands.

The international community, especially the major polluters in the industrialized world are under moral obligation to take the differentiated responsibility to accommodate the victims of climate from the low-lying countries on high grounds and urgently formulate a multilateral treaty in facilitating citizenship.

The Maldives, which will be hit hardest by global warming, should demand developed nations to agree on the terms and modalities to allocate adaptation funds to developing countries based on their respective level of vulnerability to climate change, including the calculation of the rise in the sea level.


  1. idhikeeli said,

    December 1, 2008 @ 3:26 am

    Speaking in Fuvahmulah President Nasheed has made another of his strange remarks, saying there are 800 uninhabited islands in the Maldives that could be leased for tourism development. While Idhikeeli sees a certain logic in his suggestions of forming a fund for buying land, and relocating in a doomsday scenario, we are more concerned that the current government sees all the remaining uninhabited islands in the Maldives as potential tourist resorts. We feel Bluepeace should be concerned about this issue as well because in the past Bluepeace had raised the issue of resource management and allocation for tourism purposes. Bluepeace had raised concerns that too many uninhabited islands were allocated for tourism development, leading to loss of biodiversity.
    Bluepeace was also against the previous government’s policy of tourism expansion at the expense of reefs and lagoons.

    Idhikeeli finds few benefits that the ordinary people in the Maldives would get out of the government’s plan to lease tourist resorts for 50 years. To calm the fears of people that this plan would allow the rich to be richer, and act as a barrier to new people entering the industry and owning wealth, the government is now pointing out that there are 800 remaining virgin islands which can be developed into tourist resorts. It is this type of reckless expansionary tourism policy of the previous government that led to selling reefs and lagoons of the country.

    As an environmental organisation Bluepeace has a moral obligation to protest the government’s policy of extending resort lease period to 50 years, and suggesting that all islands in Maldives can be utilised for tourism.

  2. lato fato said,

    December 3, 2008 @ 12:31 pm

    1. Would the world take the trouble on investing such a huge amount to just one nation? Dont they have problems of their own?

    2. Shouldnt someone take a poll and see how the general public feel about this, i.e. should we relocate ourselves to another nation like Australia or find finance to dump fill material to an ever raising sea level? Which way is more realistic?

    3. Where lies the balance betwenn sentiment and realism on this context?

    4. Are we to further corner ourselves into vulnarability?

    5. Will we loose our identity by migrating? What are the other costs to this?

    6. What is the benefit in staying on a sinking nation other than protecting out identity?

    Lee Harvey Oswald

  3. kaasingee said,

    December 3, 2008 @ 7:30 pm

    i agree. the expantion of resorts should be minimize to obtain maximum bebefit to the country.

  4. Ca said,

    December 3, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

    The government now is certainly immature and illogical in policy making.

    What is democracy and decentralization, when everything is been done according to the thoughts of a single head.

    People need to be discussed and he needs to listen to what people are to say. People’s opinion matters. A good leader not only aspires to conquer his ambitious big dreams, but lets the people decide for themselves.

    In short, there is no difference than maumoon, if anni continues to do what he thinks is the best for the people.

  5. HAMZA said,

    December 4, 2008 @ 7:10 am

    Dear Bluepeace…when you say :
    “What is so sad is that there are still no signs that the developed nations will agree to the terms of the adaptation funds created in the Bali climate change talks. Developed nations should help the contingency country of the Maldives to develop at least seven elevated islands in different parts of the country as contingency islands.”
    remember the international communities and the developed countries of the world have an obligation to finance adaptation measures. If you have read through the documents of adaptation produced in the Maldives as well as the National Adaptation Plan of Action-NAPA- they all identify measures for adaptation to climate change. The international donors including the Global Environment Facility [Fund] have money donated by the international community for adaptation to climate change in the small island nations via the declarations signed. It is a matter of Governments interest in the area to tap these funds and do more research and carry out the identified needs. I will give you a copy of the NAPA for your information. I here like to note that the previous government used Climate Change as a tool for politics. LET US PRAY THE PRESENT GOVERNMENT DOES NOT. and takes up the issue of climate change quite seriously. Also on the idea of migration…the world is not ready but we need to talk about it, but the actual putting aside of funds is debatable.

  6. jacopo said,

    December 10, 2008 @ 8:01 am

    I do not live there, but it would surprise me if the government would not run a survey to understand what the Maldivians feel better between consolidating the archipelago and buy some land elswehere. However, it is true that the Maldives are kind of small paradigm of our planet: too much inhabitated to be naturally sustainable. In this respect, moving away is more realistic than one would think (and populations leaving next to deserts have been pushed away several times in history, often rising issues with nighbors).

    Does the government has some ideas about where to buy exactly this land?

    And if the uninhabited islands are built up for tourism, meaning more tourists to come, and at the same time the Maldivians move away, should we would suggest to rename the archipelago Tourislands?

  7. TopDog said,

    June 26, 2009 @ 6:33 pm


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  8. Maldives: Help from Outer Space - Fairplanet said,

    July 11, 2009 @ 3:17 am

    […] New Homeland Elsewhere is Not the Only Solution for Climate Victims of the Maldives […]

  9. Maldives: Help from Outer Space said,

    July 11, 2009 @ 4:22 am

    […] New Homeland Elsewhere is Not the Only Solution for Climate Victims of the Maldives […]


    September 13, 2009 @ 6:41 am

    […] sea level rise and climate change can have on the Maldives cannot be underestimated. The issues of migration and adaptation, the scenario of becoming sea level refugees one day, and joining forces with the most vulnerable […]

  11. issay said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

    When we talk about relocating!!! Why cant we look back in to the past & find a better solution than just abandoning your home & run like crazy..

    We have to consider the fact that, the republic of Maldives has a population,out of which about 60% will most probably not survive one year, if they had to change their livelihood & move to another land, may it be India or Antarctica.
    How many of us can get a job, how long will the money last,which we get from whatever means before we abandon Maldives??

    Will the world continue to think of us as people from beautiful nation, once this Nation is underwater?? After all every nation will probably be more worried about their own ass..

    So, instead of relocating, we better find a way to gradually adapt to the increasing sea level phenomenon, which has still not yet been agreed up on by many climatologists…

    Its best we prepare for the worst & find a means to gradually live higher above the sea level..
    I do not think this is the first time that the earth had a warming up or a freeze over..even though, right now Humans live on earth!!

    Lets all forget about moving.. its the worst option. its not gonna be like we go live in Malaysia for 3 years or something.. once we move we do not have a back up which is our country & assets or businesses.

    Hope to see some ideas on this, instead of just discussions on the topic.

  12. samo said,

    October 23, 2009 @ 6:37 am

    hi, i am working on an architectural solutions on Maldives, in terms of the necessity to save certain islands. I am happy to see the flash model in this article as a precedent study for further possibility. Could you let me know where the image from and what project that is. Thanks

  13. downabove said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 6:20 am

    I like what issay just said…

    Let’s think of adapting to sea level rise. It’s one thing WE can actually DO!

    Becoming Enviromental Refugees is not a a game worth playing.

    Think and think ahead. We can overcome… this, even if the world fails to hear any of our concerns. Let us try and discuss solutions. Setting a green example to the world is one thing, even I would like to see. Yet, I feel investing and struggling for our nation’s survival is much more important.

    It would be nice to see an initiative by the Bluepeace, to start a constructive think-tank on this one.

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