(6) Waste, infrastructure and environmental management

Despite a number of significant environment related migration pressures (Fig. 3.6) it appears that in the minds of most Maldivians, for now at least, mass emigration from the archipelago does not seem to constitute an immediate threat. At the same time it is the view of some respondents that most islands are likely to undergo unprecedented topographical and geomorphological transformation this century (Q29/Exp/Male/20120102), and/or that “most islands will disappear” by 2100 (Q2/Exp/Male/20111222). This possibility appears to make the piloting of viable adaptation measures indispensable.

In this context Hulhumale may perhaps already be regarded as a pilot project by means of which to assess the viability of computer designed and artificially created “Contingency Adapted Raised Islands”, which may offer both long-term protection

Environment Related Push Factors (ERPF). Important and very important environment related pressures to migrate; Q = 33 FG = 90 N = [ ]

Fig. 3.6 Environment Related Push Factors (ERPF). Important and very important environment related pressures to migrate; Q = 33 FG = 90 N = [ ]

An average Maldivian island protrudes less than 1 m above sea level. Illustration © Bluepeace Maldives

Fig. 3.7 An average Maldivian island protrudes less than 1 m above sea level. Illustration © Bluepeace Maldives

from climate change related sea level rises, and act as an in situ insurance policy against future forced human emigration scenarios (Figs. 3.7 and 3.8). However, at a cost of multiple millions of dollars the affordability and replicability of such artificially designed and raised island reclamation projects has been called into question (Q30+31/Exp/Hulhumale/20120102). Moreover, a duplication or multiplication of the Hulhumale blueprint may be financially prohibitive in the absence of international climate change adaptation or compensation financing—a funding stream which seems notoriously unreliable, if past UN climate summits are to be seen as a reliable guide (Harrabin 2012a, b). Finally, the longer-term affordability of massive-scale engineering bulwarks would seem very much dependent on enduring foreign exchange earnings from tourism and fisheries—a funding source which

Contingency Adapted Raised Island with 3-5 m elevation. Illustration © Bluepeace Maldives

Fig. 3.8 Contingency Adapted Raised Island with 3-5 m elevation. Illustration © Bluepeace Maldives

could dry up if climate change impacts should cause the country’s coral reef or fish stocks to erode or collapse (SOEM 2011, cf, Slezak 2016).

Irrespective, it would be inappropriate to explore “hard” engineering solutions without drawing attention to environmental knock-on effects. Referring to lagoon dredging and island reclamation projects (e.g. Hulhumale, Gulhifalhu) a number of respondents highlighted serious environmental damages which hard engineering measures inflict through encroachment, habitat destruction, biodiversity decimation and species extinction (Q3/Exp/Hanimaadhoo/20111224). Respondents also cautioned that land reclamation and artificial harbours impact on sedimentation processes which can lead to “increased erosion” (Q4/Migr/Dest/Hanimaadhoo/ 20111225) in adjacent areas or islands, or cause “sand [and] debris to float and settle in reef areas” with consequent “adverse effects in dive sites” (Q3/Exp/ Hanimaadhoo/20121228; Q14/Exp/Hanmaadhoo/20111228). Respondents also advocated that “mangroves should be protected” (Q3/Exp/Kulhudhuffushi/ 20111227), that sand should be mined “from the bottom of the sea [rather] than from the lagoon” (Q31/Exp/Hulhumale/20120102), and that “marshlands should be preserved” instead of being filled in to make room for expansive land reclamation (Q3/Exp/Kulhudhuffushi/20111227). Respondents emphasised these protective measures as important both to maintain the Maldives’ natural richness in bird and fish species and to ensure that human exposure to ocean hazards does not increase further (Q3/Exp/Hanimaadhoo/20111224).

Given that the natural resilience of low-lying reef islands diminishes considerably after subjection to human modification (hard adaptation) makes the conservation of mangroves and environmental shelterbelts (soft adaptation) even more important (Kench et al. 2006, p. 177; Luetz 2008, pp. 60-65; Mimura et al. 2007, p. 698).

 
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