Photo: Abdulla Adam
Photo credit: Saud Ahmed
…is just a five minute walk away from a rocky beach. Growing up, I spent a lot of time playing in the sea and the lush greens surrounded by the beach. The island used to be clean and pristine.
This is not the case anymore.
Now, you see plastic and litter everywhere. The houses close to the beach suffer from swarms of flies because of the litter dumped in the sea. It is hard to not be passionate about the environment especially if you have lived and felt its power as I have. I love the green lush jungle too, I can tell you exactly how many types of plants there are near my home and what their names are. Growing up, I saw with my own eyes how erosion can be slowed down by tree roots, and that my home is so dependent on the environment I live in.
Fishing is one of the biggest industries here, weekdays fishing boats come and go, bringing in significant income for the islanders. Tuna, Snapper, Marlin… fishing is the lifeblood for Maldivians, an integral part of their existence. But that is changing fast.
USMAN HASSAN, FISHERMAN 52 YEARS OLD
“Fishing has declined over the past few years .I think the climate is the cause. Now we hardly get any rain. It hasn’t rained for months and the dry period is much longer than usual. It’s just getting hotter and hotter…”
People here don’t need advocacy groups to tell them the effect of climate change, they are experiencing it every day. UNDP has a project on the island here, “Integrating Climate Change Risks into Resilient Island Planning”. The project is funded by the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and implemented by UNDP. The Government of Maldives is supported to systematically assess the costs and benefits of different adaptation options in the fields of land use planning and coastal protection.
In the case of Kulhudhuffushi, climate change has led to the increasing frequency of heavy rainstorms, communities are at risk for devastations from floods. Here, with the support from the project, the government will help the community to deal with excessive flooding by building a proper drainage system.
During the research on adaptation methods to prevent flooding, we observed the curious effects of climate change on the mangroves.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO PROTECT THE MANGROVES?
6 AM, this is the breath-taking beauty of the biggest mangroves in the northern Maldives.
People here have had a long and prosperous relationship with this area. They relied on the mangroves for firewood, building material and food. Many of the mangroves were used for fish farming when the sea is rough.
MOOMINA YOOSUF: MANGROVES&WOMEN'S COMMUNITY
Now, things are changing, with modernization, many provisional services the mangroves provided have disappeared, but for Moomina Yoosuf the mangroves is still her livelihood.
Moomina Yoosuf and her friends are weaving coir-rope. This is a tedious effort to earn money. The ropes are made from coconut husks. You leave them soaking in the mud in the mangroves for eight months, and once soft, you have to pound the fiber, wash them in salt water, dry them and hand weave them into coir-rope or as termed locally ‘roanu’, which is famed for its strength and durability, and is used in boat and home building.
The mangroves is key to our business. If the mangrove disappears we would no longer be able to weave, because we need to soak the coconuts husks in the mangroves for 6 to 7 months…The extra income we earn from this is really helps us because we buy stationery, school books and food…”
Even coir-rope weaving is on the decline, now, they are mainly used as decorations in luxury resorts.
Now, you hear a different view. Mangroves provided breeding ground for mosquitos, and with limited solutions for garbage disposal, locals started to dump their rubbish in the mangroves and some islanders have proposed to make use of the space to build more housing.
This indicates the lack of awareness on the ecological benefits of mangroves, which include acting as habitats for birds, enriching soil, to controlling floods from heavy rain and sea surges.
The natural process of mangroves has inspired several engineering solutions globally that aim to produce similar results in areas where mangroves aren’t present. Kulhudhuffushi’s mangroves are doing what artificially engineered system can do but without any cost while also contributing to the livelihoods of the community, UNDP’s project on the island is also trying to re-engineer the natural process of flood control and ground water replenishing.
THE SECRET OF CLEAN WATER
Many islands in the Maldives suffer from a lack of clean drinking water, the groundwater having become increasingly saline and polluted because of the impact of climate change. The government of the Maldives work to build water pipes which can send a combination of rainwater and desalinated water to all houses, the effort is supported by development agencies like the UNDP.
Kulhudhuffshi has these water pipes too, but people seldom use it. This is because the ground water lens is still very much intact.
The secret is the mangroves. It captures the storm water and drains it into the fresh water lens and replenishes it. If the mangroves are gone, people will have to start using the water pipes, which increase cost and waste energy.
THE CULTURAL CONNECTION
Every year, during Eid, locals from Kulhudhuffushi transform themselves into “Mashi Maali”, or clay monsters and parade on the streets. Crowds stand along the road to just catch a glimpse of the fun of the amazing performances. This tradition, one the most popular events is based on “Mashi”, a type of clay that can only be found in the mangroves.
Other than body coat, the clay is also applied to slices of wood, which can then be used as writing pads.
Without the mangroves, our tradition and culture will be lost forever.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT MY HOMETOWN?
I’m 26 years old, and I’ve already seen how climate change can impact my home. Travelling to anywhere in the world, when I mention I’m Maldivian, people gasp at the beauty of our seas, and diversity of our environment, I tell them about the untouched coral reefs, the amazing plants and the sandy beaches. I have been lucky to grow up here, but what about the next generation? And the generation after them? How much of this beauty would disappear? Will we still have a home?
What you do in your home, be it in London, Paris, New York, is affecting my hometown and our way of life. Please help me to keep my home Kulhudhuffushi a beautiful paradise as it is….
Story by Adam Abdulla, Edited by Jin Ni. Photos by: Jin Ni, Badheeu Zakariyya & Saud Ahmed