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Climate Change in the Maldives

The Republic of Maldives is a chain of 1,190 islands in 20 atolls in the Indian Ocean. Of these, just over 200 islands are inhabited with a population of slightly over 436,000 people. The country extends more than 510 miles from north to south and 80 miles from east to west. The Maldives is a very isolated country; its nearest neighbor is India, over 370 miles away from its most northern island. The highest point of land is two meters or about six feet above sea level. Combined with an average of 84 inches of rain per year, this puts the country at great risk of floods and rising sea levels. It is one of, if not the, lowest nations above sea level. The Maldives is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and must be protected from the effects of climate change.

Being land scarce and low lying, the country is exposed to dangerous weather events such as damage caused by inundation, extreme winds, and flooding from storms. The Maldives is also highly exposed to the risk of sea level rise. Due to the melting of the polar ice caps, future sea level is projected to rise within the range of 10 to 100 centimeters by the year 2100, which means the entire country could be submerged in the worst-case scenario. Already, some of the 1,190 tiny islands have disappeared beneath the sea. Rising sea temperatures also threaten the fate of coral reefs, a main defense against sea rise. Bleaching and death of reefs can cause whole populations of fish do either die or relocate somewhere else,  creating a dessert like ecosystem underwater. These problems are only intensified by the amount of pollution and the lack of proper waste management systems. The Maldives struggles to provide clean water to its citizens. A lack of infrastructure combined with lots of flooding leads to freshwater contaminated with salt water or sewage. Fortunately, there are two NGOs which can begin working in the area.

The first NGO is Conservation International. This organization works to fight climate change on multiple fronts, specifically in oceans, forests, food, and water. Conservation International works to use the environment around us as a natural defense against climate change. This will be crucial in the Maldives to preserve the coral reefs and wetlands, which act as a natural barrier against flooding and are home to a wide variety of wildlife. Both coral reefs and these wetlands are oxygen producers and the revival of these systems will be very beneficial to the health of the Maldives. This organization also creates sustainable forms of food and water. Sustainability of water resources is crucial for the maldives, because if there is no freshwater in the country, it would have to be shipped over from foregin countries that are very far away. To maintain a sustainable food source, Conservation International will have to work with policy makers to create limits on fishing, the main source of food and income for Islanders.

The second NGO is the Environmental Justice Foundation. It takes more of a human rights stance on the problem of climate change. As said in their mission “By looking at environmental security through a human rights lens, we can mobilise concern, garner support and drive international action for lasting change” They do most of their work in the oceans and forests, and also train activists to combat climate change themselves. The EJF works to expose poor environmental management and works with lawmakers to make better climate change policies. By taking more of a human rights stand, they will work hard to fight the freshwater crisis affecting the Maldives. The work of these two NGOs have been proven all throughout the world and they would immediately be a big help to the people and government of the Maldives.