The Maldives is a small archipelago nation that is extremely vulnerable to climate change due to the risk of rising sea levels. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that a rise in sea levels of up to 2 feet would swamp the majority of the Maldives’ low-lying islands.
Yet the Maldives relies heavily on tourism for its survival which can be problematic when the industry booms and puts manta rays at risk. It also means that it is the target of tourism development ideas such as a floating ‘green’ golf course island which comes with some rather dubious eco credentials.
The President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed is a world famous advocate for active measures against climate change and even held a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the risk of rising sea levels to his nation. Nasheed also unveiled plans back in 2009 to help the Maldives become carbon-neutral within a decade. However, the nation seems to be taking a step in the wrong direction by considering outlandish plans to build a floating golf island which developers Dutch Docklands insist is a ‘scarless development.’
According to the reports from CNN, Paul van de Camp, chief executive officer of floating architecture specialists Dutch Docklands and developer of the project told Nasheed that he could transform the Maldives from a nation of climate refugees into ‘climate innovators’. He added: “We have a way of building and sustaining this project that is environmentally friendly, too. This is going to be an exclusively green development in a marine-protected area.”
They also added, and this is the clincher, that to avoid environmental risks they wouldn’t be building the Island near the Maldives but most likely in the Middle East or India. Right.
The project will cost an estimated $500 million and include 27 holes with three interlinked islands as well as villas and a conservation centre. The floating golf island will also be powered by solar energy in line with the Maldives’s pledge to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2020.
Nature Conservancy’s senior marine biologists Mark Spalding has raised concerns over pollution risks related with construction, pesticides being used on the island and then ending up in the sea as well as the use of desalination to provide the island with water. In another case, environmentalists criticized Israel’s plans to build an artificial island as ‘complete madness’ with ecological implications such as beach erosion. I think that once again, we need to be wary of a development project of this scale that promises to be ‘scarless’ and have no environmental impact- especially when its all for golf.
As one commentator at UPI.com points out, “If you are going to shade acres of ecologically rich seafloor, not to mention displace acres of oxygen producing phytoplantkon (sic), shouldn’t it be for something a little more important than golf?”
Couldn’t have put it better myself.