Download To visit the Maldives is to witness the slow death of a nation.
Government scientists fear the sea level is rising up to 0.9 cm a year.
Since 80 percent of its 1,200 islands are no more than one meter above sea level, within 100 years the Maldives could become uninhabitable.
The government is acutely aware of the problem and it was the first country to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol.
But as Jofelle Tesorio reports from the Maldives the challenges are huge.
This is the main mode of transport in the Maldives.....Boats that connect the more than one thousand islands in this tiny nation.
And they run on fossil fuel.
Dr. Ahmed Shaheed is the former foreign minister of the Maldives.
“The challenge is the transportation…The technology is not yet there but we are looking at it a time-frame and the way these technologies are evolving at this sector, it is not going to be very long for us to be able to use non-fossil fuel energy production for transportation, at least for sea transportation.”
The long term plan is to use rechargeable batteries that run off solar panels.
There is also talk of using an array of floating solar panels and wind turbines.
But these cutting-edge technologies are expensive.
Dr. Ahmed Shaheed says the government is committed to being carbon neutral by 2020.
“We are a frontline state, one of the most vulnerable states in the climate change impacts. But beyond that, we also want to use that attention to demonstrate what can be done. Rather than simply being a vulnerable country, we also seek to become an agent of change and President Nasheed’s policies are designed to make the Maldives carbon-neutral by 2020 and to start demonstrating to other countries the benefits of switching to a low-carbon future.”
But the former foreign minister admits that despite the optimism and willingness of the Maldives, it is still in the planning stage.
“The most important thing to do would be switching our energy production to renewable resources. As the new government came in, we have tried to switch that by investing on or getting people to invest on alternative energy. We got three projects in three stages but are still very formative. They are contracted out to different parties to set up wind farms in different locations. That should take care of the very large amount of our energy needs. Beyond that, we need to look at how we manage waste.”
The Maldives is relying on foreign funds to make these projects a reality.
A Japan-funded project on renewable energy is being tested in the capital Male, where 60 percent of the 300,000 population live.
Male is surrounded by a 3m-high wall, which took 14 years to construct.
It cost 63 million dollars and was also paid for by Japan.
But the wall offers protection for just one of the Maldives' 200 inhabited islands - and only against tidal surges rather than the rising sea level.
All islands in the Maldives are not above 1.8 meters.
Ali Riswan, director of the environmental group Blue Peace Maldives, says something has to be done to prevent the Maldives from sinking.
“Being the lowest lying country, I think we should not gamble the fate of the whole country. We should already start to develop dry lands like Hulhumale or raise other islands to two-three metres as contingency islands or adopted islands...It would cost millions to build these islands...We don’t want to be environmental refugees. We have been living here 2,000 years as a nation... ”
The Maldives is heavily-dependent on tourism.
Aisha Niyaz, one of the countries youth representatives at the Copenhagen climate talks, wants to see the tourism industry change.
“Resorts very much focus on short term gains. Most of the developments are into short term gains. For example, mass reclamations are going on right now. With the coral bleaching that has happened and the predicted sea temperature rise, it's really heartbreaking to see that the government is going ahead with mass reclamation without properly having mitigation measures in place..."
While the government is encouraging forestation to prevent beach erosion, many resorts are not helping.
The resorts usually build cottages on gardens and stilt above sand and water to maximise their limited space.
Most have swimming pool despite the lack of ground water in many islands.
The youth environment advocate also believes green tax on the Maldives shall be imposed.
“The budget for environment is just one percent... Tourists are willing for environment protection...I just hope there’s more budget allocated. Green tax has to be imposed...The government should give more incentives to resorts that are more proactive to the environment..."
Given its fragile democracy and complacency among the population, the ambitious country may find itself trapped on its own little boat paddling hopelessly against giant waves.
1. uninhabitable: tak berpenghuni
2. cutting-edge technologies : teknologi canggih
3. vulnerable : rentan
4. carbon neutral: netral karbon
5. low carbon future: masa depan rendah karbon
6. renewable resources: sumber daya alam yang bisa diperbaharui
7. tidal surges:gelombang pasang
8. green tax: pajak linkungan
9. paddling: mengayuh
10. coral bleaching: kerusakkan karang
1. What could happen to the Maldives in a hundred years time and how many percent of their islands is no more than above a meter?
2. What is the government doing to prevent this from happening?
3. Which projects is Japan funding and how much does it cost?
4. Why is the Maldives heavily dependent on tourism?
5. What are the impacts of resorts on the environment and how much of the nation's budget is reserved for its preservation?