Maldivians will survive climate change, says tourism minister

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has urged Maldivians to adapt to the impacts of climate change instead of considering relocation to higher ground abroad.

Maldivians will continue to live on Maldivian soil for the next 500 years, he said, at a festival held to mark the World Environment Day on Saturday.

“Maldives are innovative and always looking for new innovations. We will live here in the Maldives even if we have to reclaim land or live on floating contraptions,” he said.

The Maldivian islands lie just a meter above sea-level.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in a 2013 report said global sea-level is rising and predicts accelerated rise for this century.

For high emissions, the IPCC now predicts a global rise by 52-98 cm by the year 2100, which would threaten the survival of coastal cities and island nations such as the Maldives.

Sea-level rise will be accompanied by coastal erosion, surface-flooding and saltwater intrusion into soil and groundwater, scientists have said. Climate change will also bring frequent and severe weather extremes and coral reef die-offs because of ocean warming and acidification.

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon in a message on World Environment Day said: “The Maldives continues to take a proactive approach in building resiliency to the adverse impacts of climate change through pursuing a low carbon development strategy.”

President Abdulla Yameen has pledged to explore for oil in the Maldives.

Rubbish Island

In his speech, Adeeb also pledged to allocate a US$6 green tax – to be levied on tourists in November – to tackling waste management on Thilafushi Island, where garbage from Malé and resorts are sent.

“Tourists, who travel via air taxi, have asked if Thilafushi is a volcano, if volcanoes exist in the Maldives. I tell them that is not the case here and that I cannot give further details,” he said.

More than 200,000 tons of industrial and domestic waste were sent to Thilafushi in 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to government figures.

While some of the waste is sorted and sent to India, most is simply used as landfill or burned. Campaign groups have highlighted the risks to workers from toxic fumes and the contamination of surrounding lagoons by floating garbage.

The former Maldivian Democratic Party-led government had signed a contract with India-based Tatva Global Renewable Energy in 2011 to provide waste management services in and around Male, including establishing a system to generate power from recycling waste.

However, the current government of President Yameen cancelled that deal late last year, having previously sought to renegotiate it on “more mutually beneficial” terms.

Photo: social media 

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‘How Blue Is My Ocean’ art exhibition to mark World Environment Day

The Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation (MPRC) and the National Centre for the Arts are organising an art exhibition for World Environment Day.

The exhibition will feature works by Indian artist and environmentalist, Bipasha Sen Gupta.

The exhibition will be opened to public on June 6 from 10.00 to 16.00 and from 19.00 to 21.00.

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Comment: UN Message for World Environment Day

Nearly 20 years after the 1992 Earth Summit, the world is once again on the road to Rio – the site of the June 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

Much has changed in the past two decades, geopolitically and environmentally.  Hundreds of millions of people in Asia, Latin America – and, increasingly, in Africa – have risen from poverty.

Yet, evidence is also accumulating of profound and potentially irreversible changes in the ability of the planet to sustain our progress.

Rapid economic growth has come with costs that traditionally rarely feature in national accounting. These range from atmospheric and water pollution to degraded fisheries and forests, all of which impact prosperity and human well-being.

The theme of World Environment Day this year, “Forests: Nature at Your Service”, emphasizes the multi-trillion dollar value of these and other ecosystems to society – especially the poor.

Despite growing global awareness of the dangers of environmental decline – including climate change, biodiversity loss and desertification – progress since the Earth Summit has been too slow.  We will not build a just and equitable world unless we give equal weight to all three pillars of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental.

To sustainably reduce poverty, guarantee food and nutrition security and provide decent employment for growing populations, we must make the most intelligent use of our natural capital.

India, the global host of World Environment Day in 2011, is among a growing number of countries working to address the pressures of ecological change.

It is also helping to pioneer a better assessment of the economic value of nature-based services, with the assistance of the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.

India’s Rural Employment Act and the country’s encouragement of renewable energy are significant examples of how to scale up green growth and accelerate the transition to a green economy.

No single day can transform development onto a sustainable path. But on the road to Rio +20, this year’s World Environment Day can send a message that those with influence in government and the private sector can – and must – take the necessary steps that will fulfil the promise of the Earth Summit.

The global public is watching, and expects nothing less.

Ban Ki-moon is the United Nations secretary general.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to minivan.news@gmail.com

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Mission to save a Kimboo

As 30 odd students from Billabong High EPSS International school traipsed to Kudakudhinge Bageecha (children’s park) on the southeast side of Male, one might have thought they were on an outing for enjoyment.

But these students were on a mission. To save the crocodile, or ‘kimboo’ as they say in Dhivehi.

Grade eight student Shiman Shiyam had come to see the kimboo before. It is one of the major attractions at the park along with some birds in cages, and tortoises.

“It was sad to see it before also like that, but we never got a chance to do anything about it,” she says.

Shiman is busy painting a banner on the grounds of the park along with five other students, calling for the freedom of the kimboo.

Here and there pockets of students milling about preparing banners. From time to time, some go to take a peek at the kimboo.

The kimboo was caught off an island in Maldives in 1998. When it was first displayed in the little enclosure at the park, you could sometimes barely see it as it was so small the water at the enclosure could completely cover it.

But after 12 years in captivity it has grown to nine feet in length, and the water in the enclosure no longer even covers it. It can stretch its body, but the enclosure is too small for it now.

Billabong High School’s Biology Teacher, Kate Wilson, was out running with a friend when a detour in the park led them to discovering the crocodile.

Billabong students are on a mission to save the Kimboo, a nine foot crocodile
Billabong students are on a mission to save the Kimboo, a nine foot crocodile

“We were horrified by the size of the enclosure,” she says.

Calls were placed to Environmental protection Agency (EPA). The EPA told them that they had already tried to rescue the crocodile in conjunction with a Sri lankan outfit, to try and send it to a better place, “but for some reason it didn’t work out.”

Kimboo occasionally makes it into local media and even has his own Facebook page calling for his release, but so far nothing has eventuated.

Kate shared the story with her students, who were very keen to help and do what they could to begin the process of finding the crocodile a better home.

“We got in touch with an international agency in Australia, which rescues crocodiles that are injured or in bad conditions,” she says.  The agency is currently holding discussions to see if it is feasible to rescue the crocodile.

To encourage the agency to take action, today the students were making banners and producing a video with messages calling for support.

Shiman is confident kimboo will be rescued.

Aishath Suha, also in grade eight, says she volunteered for the operation ‘because I don’t want to see kimboo suffer.”

She points out the lack of space and says “it will be better off somewhere else in a better habitat.”

Like Shiman, Suha had also come to see the crocodile before and been concerned.

“This is all part of marking  World Environment Day, albeit belatedly,” says Billabong’s Principal, David Key.

Billabong High could not mark the day, as it fell on a holiday.

But now, as part of the activities, groups of students are planting 30 trees along the beach front area, and the beach near the tsunami monument.

“This is to create awareness among students about what they can do, and how they can help in contributing positively to preserving the environment,” says David.

Reasons for rescuing kimboo

Banners completed, the students gathered on the steps in the park. Each group of students gave the message they wanted to say for the video.

A group of young boys likened the kimboo’s captivity to “holding a person in a cage, through no fault of his own.”

Most students mentioned the small enclosure as the prime reason for wanting it to be rescued.

“It would be better off in a better home with others of its kind,” was another reason.

Sadly, after 12 years in captivity, the kimboo can most likely never be set free. But for the grade 7, 8, 9 and 10 students of Billabong, the fact it might get a better home is reason enough to try.

Meanwhile the kimboo lies in its enclosure, its powerful jaws wide open, oblivious to the fact that its future might soon change dramatically for the better.

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Comment: Loss of biodiversity would be an existential threat to the Maldives

On World Environment Day, we remember the fundamental connection that all species on this planet have with each other.

At a time of rapid change in our climate, and as we think about how to address these changes, it is important to remember that all species of flora and fauna are connected with each other. 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, which gives us a chance to stress the importance of biodiversity for human well-being, reflect on our achievements to safeguard it and encourage a redoubling of our efforts to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss.

The theme for today, World Environment Day 2010, is “Many Species. One Planet. One Future.” It echoes the urgent call to conserve the diversity of life on our planet.

Reports indicate that up to 50 per cent of Asia’s total biodiversity is at risk due to climate change. Least Developed Countries are particularly vulnerable, as they are the least prepared or able to deal with the impact of climate change.

Moreover, because of our particular circumstances, there are perhaps few countries that are at greater peril from the adverse effects of climate change and loss of biodiversity than the Maldives – a nation of small islands dependent entirely on its coastal and marine resources.

Biodiversity constitutes the basis of most economic activity in the Maldives, and generates income directly or indirectly for most of the country’s citizens. A healthy and diverse marine ecosystem is vital for the functioning of the two largest industries, fisheries and tourism. Together, these provide three quarters of the country’s jobs, 90% of its GDP and two thirds of its foreign exchange earnings. Moreover, the islands, vulnerable to natural disasters, need healthy coral reefs to help protect and guard them against the adverse affects of climate change. A loss of biodiversity should therefore be seen as an existential threat to the Maldives.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reiterates that all countries shall “protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”

While every country has a right to development, there is a matching obligation that countries should aim for sustainable development, integrating environmental, social and economic growth as a whole. Adaptation to climate change and building the resilience of communities against the impact of climate change must be the pillars of sustainable human development in small island developing nations such as Maldives.

With President Mohamed Nasheed declaring the government’s intention to make the Maldives carbon neutral, and the government having prepared a Strategic Action Plan for the development of Maldives, the United Nations reaffirms its commitment to assist the people of the Maldives in the pursuit of sustainable development, and a low-emission pathway to growth.

At the policy level, it is clear what should be done. But more importantly, we should focus now on action at a community, island and atoll levels. Policies only help if they are implemented to benefit both people’s livelihoods, and the environment that provides for the people. It is imperative for everyone to play a role, including individuals and non-governmental organizations, in sharing experiences and knowledge on climate change adaptation and mitigation, and on the sustainable use of the natural resources that surround us.

Maldivians have been dealing with climate change for hundreds of years. They know the impact it can have on their islands and their lives. It may well be that climate change is faster than it has ever been before, but nobody knows better than the Maldivians how to respond and adapt. Let us now use that knowledge and understanding to effectively adapt to climate change, and to work together to sustainably develop the Maldives.

Andrew Cox is the new UN Resident Coordinator in the Maldives

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to minivan.news@gmail.com

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