The Maldives gains tourists but loses its beaches and natural wealth

Published on : Friday, March 31, 2017

Maldives gains touristsIn the Maldives, tourism has been hit in a big way with many guesthouses, accommodation and other vacationing services suffering from adverse and less profitable businesses being impacted due to storms, erosion of the shore, flooding and other natural disasters. With proliferating guesthouses across this archipelago in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives shifts away from catering to the über-rich and welcomes budget-conscious travelers.

However, unlike other resort islands, which spend millions of dollars on constructing sea walls, dredging sand and hiring marine biologists, the Maldives mostly rely on the government for protection from shore erosion and rising seas.

According to Maeed Mohamed Zahir, the director for advocacy at Ecocare, an environmental organization based in Malé, “If the Maldives don’t exist, we’re not losing just 400,000 people. We’re losing a nationality, an identity, a cultural history, a language, a script. We’re losing the beaches. We’re losing the coconut palms. We’re losing everything.”

For the Maldives’ history as a tourist destination, its government restricted visitors from staying on the 200 islands inhabited by the locals. Instead they were ferried away privately owned resort islands. But after the 2008 election of Mohamed Nasheed as president, things started changing. A law was passed that allowed the residents over there to open guesthouses. Although the tourism industry is still dominated by villas rented for thousands of dollars per night, foreigners can now book more modest accommodations for as little as $30. Around 400 guesthouses are registered in the Maldives.

And now erosion problems have made matters problematic for resort and guesthouse owners. To quote one of them, “If another five or so feet of beach erodes, the waves will be inside my house. If the government wants to do something, it should not be because tourists are now coming to this island.”


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