Sinking feelingMaldives to build floating islands to save country from rising sea levels

Published 27 August 2012

The Maldives Islands, a low-lying chain of twenty-six atolls in the Indian Ocean, are sinking; more precisely: due to global warming, the sea level is rising over the islands, most of which sit lower than three feet above the rising water; the Maldives government has embarked on an ambitious project: build floating islands, anchor them to the ocean floor, then relocate most of the population of 300,000 – and some of the tourist attractions – to them

If you have never heard of the Maldives before, it is the definition of paradise. It has sand as white as snow, towering palms, and crystal-clear waters. There is one drawback, however. The low-lying chain of twenty-six atolls in the Indian Ocean is sinking; or rather, due to global warming, the water level is rising over the islands, most of which sit less than three feet above the rising water.

Many scientists predict that rising water level could overtake the islands by the turn of the century. President Mohamed Nasheed conducted the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting to highlight the issue ahead of a 2009 UN climate change conference in Copenhagen.

At the summit, Nasheed warned world leaders that unless dramatic changes were made, the Maldives will one day be a real life Atlantis.

IBTraveler reports that now, the new government has come up with a new, radical idea to combat the problem: replacing the islands with a network of floating islands. Officials see the proposal as the best in a litany of options, including relocation population centers or building defense walls.

The country will team up with the architectural firm Dutch Docklands International (DDI) on the $500 million venture. If the plan works, the Maldives will become the largest series of floating islands in the world.

The islands will be anchored to the seabed with either cables or telescopic mooring piles to keep the structures stable throughout the worst of the Indian Ocean’s storms, while also minimizing the environmental impact.

The plan calls for building a series of small islands rather than one big island in order to reduce the shadow on the seabed, which could have a negative effect on the local wildlife. DDI plans to construct the islands in India and the Middle East and tow them to the Maldives in order to reduce costs. The Islands will rest about five minutes from the capital of Male.

Koes Olthuis of the Dutch firm Waterstudio, is responsible for the idea and has hired specialists to carry out the gigantic project. The final plan will include about 185 “Water H20mes” in the shape of a Maldivian flower, seventy-two “watervillas,” forty-three beach rimmed private islands, a hotel and convention center, and an 18-hole golf course accessible from below by underwater tunnels.

The golf courses will be the main tourist attraction as the beauty of the island will be on full display while making the rounds on the course.

The scar-less development, which has zero footprint on the Maldives region, will include state-of-the-art golf courses that look set to bring a wealth of new tourism and investment to the country,” Bruce Glasco, managing director of Troon Golf, the course’s designer, said last year, announcing his company’s participation in the project.

In an ideal world, a development like this would be on land, but the world is changing,” he said, adding “I just hope [the Maldives government] gets it right. If they do, this type of development could be a harbinger of things to come.”

Development of the solar-powered course is expected to begin later this year ahead of the full launch of the artificial island chain in 2015.

If the project works out, if could bring the Maldives a worldwide exposure and bring in millions in tourism as the world’s elite will be running to spend time on the island.