Friday, March 12, 2010

Mind the water hazard...floating golf course to be built in Maldives

Cutting-edge development in pipeline as islands plan for effects of climate change

The Islands of the Maldives, confronted by rising oceans and a landscape that is just a few feet above sea level, is poised to build a floating golf course and convention centre in what could be the first of a series of futuristic off-shore developments designed to counter the threat of global warming.

The country's government has signed a deal with a Dutch firm to investigate the feasibility of developing facilities that would be located among the 26 main atolls. It is likely the company, Dutch Docklands, which has built floating islands in Dubai, will also look into the possibility of floating homes in the Maldives.

"The methods and procedures developed by the company for floating developments reduce the impact on underwater life, and minimise the changes to coastal morphology," said a statement issued by the office of President Mohamed Nasheed. Since coming to office in late 2008, Mr Nasheed, a former political prisoner, has been quick to prioritise climate change as one of the most pressing threats to his nation, which is made up of a total of 1,200 islands.

One of his first announcements after defeating former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was a plan to try to buy an alternative homeland – possibly in Sri Lanka or India – because of the threat to his nation, more than 80 per cent of which is no more than a metre above sea level. Parts of the capital, Male, are protected by a 3m-high wall that cost more than £30m and took 14 years to build. The UN has forecast that the oceans are likely to rise by up to 60cm by 2100.

After the Asian tsunami in 2004, up to 40 per cent of the Maldives was under water. A hundred people died, which spurred the authorities to think about relocating people from the lowest-lying islands. In Kandholhudhoo, about 60 per cent of residents have volunteered to evacuate within 15 years.

Ahead of last year's Copenhagen climate change summit, the President drew attention to the likely fate of the Maldives by holding an underwater cabinet meeting at which he and his ministers used scuba equipment. Mr Nasheed has also announced plans to turn the islands carbon-neutral in 10 years. No agreement was reached in Copenhagen, to the bitter disappointment of the Maldives and many other leaders of smaller nations.

"We're trying to send our message, let the world know what is happening, and what will happen to the Maldives if climate change is not checked," he said at the time. "If the Maldives cannot be saved today we do not feel there is much chance for the rest of the world."


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