Preparing for Rising Seas in the Maldives


A new artificial island near Malé could be a destination for people trying to escape rising waters on lower-lying islands.

With more than 80 percent of its 1,190 coral islands standing less than 1 meter above sea level, the Maldives has the lowest terrain of any country in the world. This makes the archipelago in the Indian Ocean particularly vulnerable to sea level rise.

With global sea level rising 3 to 4 millimeters per year, and that rate expected to rise in coming decades, some analysts anticipate a grim future for the Maldives and other low-lying islands. One study concluded that low-lying islands could become uninhabitable by 2050 as wave-driven flooding becomes more common and freshwater becomes limited. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes anticipates sea level could rise by about half a meter by 2100 even if greenhouse gas emissions are sharply reduced or rise up to 1 meter if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase strongly.

While the Maldives government has explored plans to purchase land on higher ground in other countries as an insurance policy against sea level rise, planners are also working to enhance the resilience of the country’s current islands. One example is Hulhumalé, a newly constructed artificial island northeast of the capital, Malé.

Continue reading at NASA Earth Observatory

Image via NASA Earth Observatory