Maldives Creates New Island ‘City Of Hope’ To Protect Against Rising Sea Levels

Cameron Frew


Maldives Island HulhumaleHousing Development Corporation

Rising sea levels threaten to submerge the Maldives. However, instead of fearing the ocean, innovators have come up with a solution: a brand-new island.

Due to increasing temperatures and melting glaciers across the world, researchers from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have estimated that sea level rises could top a metre by the end of the century – every centimetre of sea level rise equals around a million people being displaced from their low-lying homelands.

While considered a popular holiday destination, picturesque and sunny, the Maldives’ very existence in the Indian Ocean hangs in the balance of global warming. Back in 2004, 80% of its 1,200 islands were reported to be no more than one metre above sea level.

Unfortunately, that figure hasn’t improved, becoming a source of anxiety for the archipelago’s 500,000-plus residents. There’s also the effects of coastal erosion, with 70% of the country’s infrastructure endangered by rising saltwater, and the unpredictability of natural disasters such as 2004’s deadly tsunami.

Mohammed Waheed Hassan, vice president of the small nation, noted in a 2010 World Bank report that all 200 of the country’s islands could be underwater by 2100, saying: ‘The Maldives stands at the frontline of the climate change battle. We are one of the most vulnerable countries on Earth and therefore need to adapt to climate change.’

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Introducing Hulhumalé, an artificial island which will host the ‘City of Hope’ intended to preserve Maldivians’ way of life while also helping to eradicate social issues like unemployment (currently at 20% among youths) and the delivery of services.

In order to raise a new 188-hectare island, millions of cubic metres of sand have been pumped from the sea bed. The process began back in 1997, eventually finishing in 2002. Just two years later, around 1,000 people moved onto the island – now, there are at least 50,000 residents.

By the mid-2020s, it’s hoped that more than 240,000 will call Hulhumalé home, with smart technology from the ground up, quality housing and an abundance of free space. For context, Malé is only one square mile, yet 130,000 people live there.

Areen Ahmed, director of business development at the Housing Development Corporation (HDC), overseeing the City of Hope, told BBC Travel

After the 2004 tsunami, a programme for enhancing resiliency through safer islands was introduced. Hulhumalé is being developed through careful considerations of climate change in its architecture and communities.

Buildings are oriented north-south to reduce heat gain and improve thermal comfort. Streets are designed to optimise wind penetration, reducing reliance on air conditioning. And schools, mosques and neighbourhood parks are within 100-200m walking distance of residential developments, reducing car use.

Ahmed dubbed Hulhumalé ‘Asia’s first 100% gigabit-enabled smart city’, with GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Networks) giving its residents super-fast digital resources.

However, while efforts have been made to reduce harming the environment, Dr. Holly East from Northumbria University’s Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences warned that land reclamation can destroy coral reefs, as well as creating ‘vast plumes of sediment’, which inhibit the reef’s ability to ‘feed, grow and reproduce’.

In addition to acting as a new home for Maldivians, the ‘City of Hope’ has great prospects for tourism beyond the norm of sunbathing, with a water theme park, yacht marina and multi-specialist hospital all in the pipeline.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Topics: Life, Climate Change, Global Warming, Now


BBC Travel and 1 other
  1. BBC Travel

    A new island of hope rising from the Indian Ocean

  2. The World Bank

    Climate Change in the Maldives

Cameron Frew
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