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Encompassing more than 200 islands in the heart of the Indian Ocean, Maldives is a world-renowned tropical paradise famed for its clear blue skies, turquoise lagoons and sandy white beaches.
However, a combination of Maldives’ ever-increasing popularity and its desire to meet tourist demand could have potentially damaging consequences to the country’s delicate ecosystem if the clean and green environment that is such a top selling point is not maintained. While several Maldivian islands remain untouched, many play host to luxurious holiday resorts and palatial accommodations the impact of which must increasingly be a concern.
After all, low-lying Maldives is already at extreme risk from global warming. Some experts believe it could be underwater by 2100 if climate change continues at current rates.
In light of this and in an attempt to head off some of the worst, the Maldives government has been introducing sustainable development measures and ecotourism practices to protect this island nation for occupants and visitors alike.
Pushing for Sustainable Development
Maldives is committed to becoming a carbon-neutral nation by 2019. The government has acknowledged that this will involve investment in renewable energy and other technologies, as well as improving environmental awareness through information dissemination, sharing best practices and taking focused action.
One such action was the establishment more than 15 years ago of The President of Maldives Green Resort Award. Created with the tourism sector in mind – the largest industry in the country when measured as a contribution to the economy – this particular accolade recognises the fragile nature of the nation’s islands and then promotes sustainable development by encouraging local holiday resorts “to adopt and embed green policies in their development and operation.” Of course, the Green Resort Award also acts a platform for educating the local population, all industry stakeholders and even holidaymakers.
The best time to visit Maldives is generally the non-monsoon months of December and April, but whenever tourists descend on the islands looking to rest, relax, explore and enjoy, they are introduced to ecotourism initiatives designed to protect and preserve the islands’s most precious attributes.
For example, given the country’s crystal-clear waters and abundant sea life, scuba diving is one of the most popular pursuits among visitors. With over 3,000 vulnerable coral reefs throughout the Maldives, though, continued exposure to holidaymakers, especially people unaware of the environmental impact their actions may have, is a grave concern.
For that reason, the government has clear recreational diving regulations that must be implemented by resorts and dive centres. This includes “reasonable care… taken to protect the marine environment, its associated living organisms and their habitats. Divers should be briefed by the dive instructor on responsible behaviour whilst diving, such as buoyancy control, avoiding damage to corals and physical contact with marine animals,” especially the reefs themselves. Dive schools and courses do take it upon themselves to promote ecological awareness and educate participants about marine life.
Both international- and Maldivian-owned tourist facilities are becoming more energy efficient. Several hotels generate their own electricity and some, like Soneva Gili, have their own water supplies and manage their own refuse treatment.
These are just some of the tourist industry responses to concerns expressed by the Maldives government and tourists about sustainability. New green initiatives are critical to preserving the Maldives natural landscape for future generations.