The luxury resorts may be world famous, but with over 80% of the 1,200 islands less than one meter above sea level, the Indian paradise may have its days numbered. If seawater rises one meter at the end of the century, according to the revised forecast by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Maldives will cease to exist.
“We are one of the most vulnerable countries on the planet and so we have to adapt,” Maldives Vice President Mohammed Waheed Hassan said in a World Bank report, which warned that most of the islands could be submerged by 2100.
But the local people are determined to fight to preserve their existence. In 2008, President Mohamed Nasheed made headlines in major newspapers around the world by announcing a plan to purchase land elsewhere so that its citizens could be resettled if the islands were submerged. Nicknamed the “City of Hope”, a new artificial island called Hulhumalé was born. Before the pandemic, many tourists could visit it, as it is only 20 minutes from the capital, Malé.
Using millions of cubic meters of sand pumped from the ocean floor, the new island was placed more than 2 meters above sea level. Thus, the expanding “City of Hope” , will alleviate the overcrowding that currently prevails in Male, where more than 130,000 inhabitants are huddled on a little more than 2.5 km². “Male is one of the most densely populated cities on the planet,” says Kate Philpot of the BBC, who worked as a scientist in the Maldives.
Currently, there are more than 50,000 inhabitants in Hulhumalé, but the ambitions are much greater – the idea is to accommodate four times as many inhabitants, or 200,000. This prospect includes a combination of quality homes, new job opportunities and open leisure spaces. The buildings are oriented north-south to reduce heat and improve thermal comfort. The streets are designed to optimize the passage of the wind, thus reducing dependence on air conditioning. And neighborhood schools, mosques, and parks are within a 100 to 200-meter walking distance of residential developments, reducing the need for a car.