Both Vaavu Fulidhoo and Lhaviyani Kurendhoo are suffering the impacts of increased coastal erosion and Udha waves as the south-west monsoon season continues.
Vaavu atoll Fulidhoo Council has said it is about to lose the island’s football stadium, while the local graveyard on Kurendhoo is now just 15 feet from the encroaching waves.
Fulidhoo has already lost its cultural center and a 50 foot tower – erected as a navigation guide for vessels traveling within the atoll – to erosion, says the council.
It estimates that approximately 350-400 feet of soil has been eroded so far, with the erosion speeding up following the 2004 tsunami and accelerating every south-west monsoon since then.
Council President Moosa Faiz says the sea is now around just six feet away from the Dhiraagu telecommunications tower, with the power cable already in the water. At the current rate of erosion, he expects it to fall before this monsoon ends.
“Now the only option we have is to move the cable into the football stadium, but the youth and general public do not want this. Some are asking how long before we move the tower into the stadium?”
The council has instead opted to keep the cable as it is – in the sea – and to the electricity to the tower for safety.
With no sufficient funds at their disposal to protect the beach, the council traveled to the capital Malé city last month, meeting with nine different government ministries and Dhiraagu without a gaining a positive response, Faiz continued.
The council has now started requesting assistance from nearby tourist resorts.
Meanwhile the island is being approached by Udha waves from the northern side of the island which last month encroached 100 feet into the island, rather than the usual 10 0r 20.
“People were afraid this time,” explained the council president.
Approximately 114 miles north of Fulidhoo, the island of Kurendhoo in Lhaviyani atoll is also facing increasing land erosion.
The northern side of the island is eroding at a fast pace, leaving the only graveyard on the island within 15 feet of being taken by the ocean.
The erosion has accelerated in the past three years, with 15-20 feet of sand already washed away by the sea on Kurendhoo.
A Kurendhoo council official said that part of the beach was reclaimed earlier during the harbor construction approximately ten years ago, but all this had all now been washed into the sea.
The previous council had tried unsuccessfully to control the erosion by placing concrete blocks and stones at the area.
The council’s only hope at the moment is the now- stalled harbor project of the island, which includes a 309 meter rock revetment, the construction of a 207 meter concrete quay-wall, and a 582 meter Rock Armour Breakwater.
The MVR40 million project was handed over to Maldives Transport and Construction Company in March 2013 and was expected to be completed with a year.
Kurendhoo also faced Udha waves from the southern side of the island in this season, affecting approximately four houses and flooding the streets.
The Kurendhoo council president believes that beach erosion on his island could be related to the construction of the harbor at the thundi side of the island where sand naturally comes and goes from the beach.
These moving sands, which some locals call the ‘dancing thundi’ are an important part of the natural system which forms and sustains the islands, may have been interrupted by human interference.
The Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) Senior Environment Analyst Rifath Naeem said that this is very likely to be an underlying reason for the increasing number of islands with chronic beach erosion.
“Sometimes construction of harbors or other development activity could throw off the balance in this system. When the complex dynamics and equilibrium of sand movement are affected by such activity, it could increase accretion or erosion of beaches. What’s happening to the beach of one island could affect that of another island in that same reef.” He said.
Since the establishment of the agency, all development projects are carried out with an Environment Impact Assessment, but Rifath said this information may not be enough considering how complex these systems are.
While this assessment minimizes the negative environmental impact, he said, to fully grasp the complex systems at work and minimize impact further would require a lot more time and work.
“Chronic erosion has been going on for a while now, both on inhabited and uninhabited islands. But lately the number of reports we receive have increased significantly along with reports of other environmental issues such as salt water intrusion and changes in rainfall,” he said.
At the moment there is not enough data to say clearly that it is in fact an increase in erosion or just an increase in reporting, he explained, if it is caused by human intervention or if it is a direct impact of climate change.