In-depth

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Protecting the environment and natural resources is equally critical to sustainable livelihoods and the Maldives economy. Photo: Umair Badeeu/UNDP Maldives 2007.

Sustainable development in the Maldives is inextricably linked to the effective management of the environment and natural resources. Geographically, Maldives is one of the most vulnerable nations to the effects of climate change impacts such as sea level rise. The small, low lying coral islands are susceptible to the threat of seasonal storms, high tides and long term sea level rise. Coastal erosion and flooding constantly threaten human health and security, and the very existence of the islands. All of these threats are predicted to become more frequent and more intense.

Protecting the environment and natural resources is equally critical to sustainable livelihoods and the Maldives economy. Fishing and tourism which form the core of the Maldivian economy are crucially dependent on the environment. The Maldives tourism industry is based upon the country’s tropical climate, pristine beaches and the rich delicate marine ecosystems – all extremely vulnerable to environmental impacts. In addition to being a source of livelihood for many, fish is also a staple food and the primary source of protein for the island communities. Any impact on the fishing industry will have direct implications on the food and nutrition security of the most vulnerable populations of the country. The lack of adequate waste disposal systems and the dependence on fossil fuels for the country’s growing energy demands pose additional challenges to the protection of the fragile environment.

The challenges that the climate change poses to these delicate ecosystems and the people whose lives are intertwined within these systems on extremely vulnerable islands are becoming increasingly apparent. The negative impacts of climate change such as sea level rise, coupled with other impacts such as more intense and frequent flooding put communities, livelihoods and economies at higher level of risk than before.

Against this background, the implementation of sound environment and energy policies are essential for sustained development in Maldives. The Government of Maldives recognizes the important role of environment and energy in the country’s path to sustainable development, and has always placed environmental issues very high on the development agenda.

UNDP is supporting the country in its efforts by helping to establish policies and frameworks that will guide the efficient management and protection of the country’s environment and natural resources, including the wider use of renewable energy technologies. The UNDP Environment and Energy Programme is guided by the overarching goal of ensuring that communities enjoy improved access to environmental services and are more capable of protecting the environment and reducing vulnerability and disaster risks with enhanced disaster management capacity.