Disaster Risk Reduction in Republic of Maldives, Status Report (July 2019)

Originally published
View original



The Republic of Maldives, one of the small island developing states (SIDS) is located in the Indian Ocean, covering a land area of 298 km2 in a territory of over 90,000 km. Thus, it is one of the most geographically dispersed nations in the world, consisting of close to 1,200 islands within 26 naturally formed Atoll-systems, which are grouped into 19 administrative atolls. The population is equally scattered across the region, inhabiting 187 islands, while another 128 islands are exclusively occupied by resorts (with 50 more resort islands currently under development). Also, the capital city Male’ is among the most densely populated urban areas in the world. As of 2014, 129,381 persons (38% of the total resident population) were living within the two-square kilometers area of the capital (May & Riyaza, 2017).

Maldives has experienced rapid economic development in the recent years, largely as a result of nature-based tourism, and is now classified as a middle-income country (The World Bank, 2017). The country’s GDP per capita reached $10,675 in 2017, compared to $200 in 1978. GDP continues to grow at the average rate of 7.1% bolstered by construction, tourism, communications, transport, and fisheries (The World Bank, 2017). Tourism as the main economic driver generated the highest share of GDP at 23% (figure 1). Albeit relatively low contribution to GDP, fisheries still remain significant sources of rural livelihoods and play an important role in domestic food and nutrition security, especially in rural areas. Given the fact that 99% of the Maldivian territory is comprised of ocean, fish (especially tuna) is a primary source of protein in local diets.

As a low-lying archipelago, with an average elevation of 1.5 meters over the sea-level, the country has also been identified as one of the most vulnerable to threats posed by climate change. Lack of disaster resilience and environmental sustainability is also perceived as threats to development. While the country has rarely experienced major disasters, with the exception of the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, small-scale and recurrent hazards such as increased rainfall, cyclonic winds, storm surges, saltwater intrusion, and coastal floods have been causing damages and losses in the recent years. Realizing these climate-related challenges, Maldives has proactively taken action to strengthen coping and adaptive capacity and has become active on the international platforms as an advocate of mitigating the impacts of climate change. Maldives has constitutionally recognized protection of the environment as a human right (The World Bank, 2017), and has committed to low-emission development alongside energy security and sustainable development (Ministry of Environment and Energy B, 2015).