8 July 2009

The disappearing Maldives

The scenic beauty of one the worlds most idyllic and peaceful environment is under threat. The Maldives, a cluster of islands lying in the Indian Ocean, are threatened by rising sea levels. The islands are a popular tourist destination, with their sandy beaches and dive spots attracting more than 600,000 tourists each year. Tourism accounts for 28% of their GDP. The sea levels, which are predicted by the UN to rise 58cm by the year 2100, could see most of the 1,192 islands submerged, as the country has an average height of 1.5m above sea level - the lowest in the world. These projected rises are said to be the result of global warming, and could see most of the country’s 369,000 inhabitants made homeless. The coral reefs surrounding the islands act as a buffer to the sea, but damage to the reefs due to overfishing and too many tourists as well as global warming threatens the islands existence, as well as the two main industries of fishing and tourism. Also adding to the damage is pollution, rubbish dumping and illegal coral and sand mining, which rob the country of some vital resources.
In response to this, President Mohammed Nasheem has pledged to make the islands carbon neutral in ten years time, by moving to solar and wind energy. Nasheed's aim is to install half a square kilometre of solar panels and 155 wind turbines, each generating 1.5 megawatts. The electricity will power vehicles as well. Boats and automobiles with gasoline engines would be slowly replaced with electric versions. The plan will cost US$1.1Billion, but the economy of the Maldives (mainly fishing and tourism), is only worth $800million a year.

It is estimated that the project will pay for itself in another decade, as the country will no longer be reliant on oil imports, so it will be totally energy self-sufficient. However, many locals are against the new plans, as they do not see why the Maldives, who contribute to less than 0.5% of the world’s carbon emissions, should have to waste money on an environmentally-friendly industry, as it is a poor developing country. But many environmentalists don’t agree, saying that if one country can become carbon neutral, then it will encourage other countries to follow; and many see it is something the Maldives can lead the world in, meaning richer countries can’t complain that going green is too expensive.

The Maldives are set to lead the way in renewable energy, and we at Ecoscene hope that this will encourage other nations to follow their lead and embrace green technology in a bid to become carbon neutral.

No comments:

Post a Comment