Climate Casualty

The difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees Celsius is a death sentence for the Maldives: Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, President of the Maldives.

By Muhammad Arslan Qadeer | July 2023

The outside world may know the Maldives as an ultimate holiday paradise in the Indian Ocean –pristine white sand beaches, breath taking blue waters and coconut trees. However, what really triggered me to visit the place is the sheer curiosity to see an age old civilization sitting on small scattered chunks of land almost equal to the surrounding ocean, and, therefore, as per prognostication by different scientific societies on environment around the world, its likelihood to become the first country on Earth to disappear beneath rising seas as a result of the global warming –perhaps the first ever to be succumbed to the inevitable.

By the time our plane started descending for Malé` airport, what all I could see from above was sporadic clusters of tiny islands that seemed like scattered dewdrops on a vast blue canvas. It was a curious sight to see our plane craftily manoeuvring the fine and intricate course as if passing through an invisible tunnel or a narrow corridor to align itself to the runway. Sitting and peeping down the window a surge of fear momentarily ran down my spine as I could physically sense the great precision and concentration required to touch down the landing gear at the right place and at the right moment to ensure that the plane did not over shoot ending up in the Indian Ocean. When the plane came to a final halt, I could see the ocean not more than 50 metres ahead across a road with regular traffic plying.

brahim Mohamed Solih, President of the Maldives

Coming out of the terminal gate we found ourselves standing on the pavement on the ocean protected by a railing. What more staggering was the spectacle of the water level almost equal to that of the road. After having a little sauntering around in the streets of Malé,` we consumed a typical Maldivian lunch cooked in coconut milk and exotic spices and quickly hired a Taxi –in this case a motor boat that took us to the Himmafushi Island, around 17 kms from Malé` and having a dimension of less than one square kilometre. This was to be our abode for the next one week.

The archipelago of the Maldives consists of 1196 low-lying islands arranged into a double chain of 26 coral atolls, so flat they scarcely breach the horizon. The nation’s entire land area is just 115 square miles sitting in 3500 square miles of ocean with few islands bigger than 300 acres. Threaded together the land and sea are the fabric of Maldivian identity.

Out of these, only around 200 are big enough to sustain a human habitat. It is located south of Indian Lakshadweep Islands and around 700 kms south west of Sri Lanka. The cumulative population of the Maldives is around 56,0000 out of which 80% of which lives on Malé`, the capital. This makes the Maldives one of the smallest country in Asia.

Twenty five hundred years of maritime living have shaped the culture and identity of the people of the Maldives. A peep into the history tells us that the civilization on the islands is as old as 300 B.C. People inhabiting the islands belonged to the Dravidian and Tamil Nadu races. Originally hailed from southern India and Sri Lanka, these people were basically fishermen and made these islands their permanent abode.

During the time of Ashoka, a vast number of Buddhist families migrated to the islands. Owing to their preaching and practices, Buddhism grew rapidly and by twelfth century CE, Buddhism became the main religion of these Islands. Islam reached the islands with the advent of Muslim traders. According to the famous traveller Ibn Batuta, who also happened to be there, Islam was spread with the efforts of a renowned Muslim scholar Abu Barakat. Ibn Batuta concluded his findings based on the innumerable ancient stone tablets on which etched was the history of the islands.

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One thought on “Climate Casualty

  • July 7, 2023 at 1:54 am

    I would like to express my sincere appreciation for Mr. Muhammad Arslan Qadeer’s insightful article on the existential threat faced by the Maldives. The writer’s expertise and in-depth knowledge on the subject matter are clearly evident throughout the piece. The observations made regarding the impact of global warming on the Maldives are particularly thought-provoking and raise awareness about the imminent danger faced by this beautiful nation.

    Furthermore, I commend Qadeer’s exceptional writing etiquette. The article is well-structured, engaging, and effectively conveys the urgency and significance of the issue at hand. The writer’s ability to highlight the vulnerability of the Maldives, with its low-lying islands and absence of natural barriers, adds a compelling layer to the narrative.

    The concluding remark about potentially losing not only the physical land but also the essence of the Maldives is both poignant and thought-provoking. It serves as a powerful reminder of the broader implications of climate change and the importance of taking immediate action to mitigate its impact.

    Overall, Qadeer’s article stands as a testament to his expertise, keen observation, and skillful storytelling. It brings attention to an urgent global issue while maintaining a high level of writing etiquette. I look forward to reading more of his work in the future.