The Maldives are a chain of 1,192 coral islands in the Indian Ocean, grouped into 26 atolls. They are well know for their reefs, making them as one of the best places for scuba diving all over the world. And now, the Maldivian government is trying to make them a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve. Great news, isn’t it??
The project will implement the reserve plan on more than half of Maldives islands by 2017, but they have still a lot to do. A Biosphere Reserve is not like a National Park, it is much more. It is a place based on a local community, made to promote sustainable development and conservation. To do this, every Biosphere Reserve follows the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, which combines natural and social sciences, economics and education to make every protected space much more than a protected area.
If the Maldives want to be the first nation where the entire country will be a Biosphere Reserve, they will have to involve all their inhabitants, and that’s about 320,000 people. The importance of this future Biosphere Reserve for the Maldivians relies on the rising sea level. The highest point of the country is about 2.4m (7.8 feet) above the sea level, so they are truly at risk of flooding and storm surges.
Maldivian government will focus on marine habitats, so as it will be a huge project, it has an enormous potential impact in our ocean. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Executive Secretary Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias said a project as ambitious as this one are necessary to reach the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Species like manta rays, whale sharks, lobsters, sea turtles,… as well as coral reef habitats will benefit from this Reserve.
Since last year, the Maldives already have a Biosphere Reserve, called Baa Atoll, and it seems to be working, but it’s too soon to make conclusions. But we can say for sure that they know how to create a Biosphere Reserve, so do you think they will be able to develop this project? Do we need more projects like this one? Where do you think the next biosphere should be?