Environment and Climate
White sandy beaches sparkling in the sun alongside crystal clear lagoons would be an idyllic place to spend a perfect holiday. While this is true in most aspects, the degree of fragility of our environment is gaining much attention within national and international levels. The fragile marine and terrestrial environment including the reefs and bio-diversity would be greatly affected unless careful management of the environment is done. Our beauty and natural resources are strongly linked with economic development of the country. Such awareness has raised many concerns and the Government is taking extensive measures towards protecting the environment.
In 1989 the first National Environmental Action Plan was developed forming a base for future actions to prevent environmental hazards. Over exploitation of natural resources are restricted. For example coral mining is banned in certain areas. Killing of turtles, which is under threat of extinction, is banned and visitors are discouraged from buying objects made from turtle shell. The entire capital island is enclosed with sea walls, a protection measure to reduce the impending hazards of climatic change and sea level rise. Projects on regeneration of ecosystems are conducted in some areas and a “Million Tree Programme” was initiated by the President of Maldives, His Excellency Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom in 1996. Small nurseries are established in atolls to spread the programme countrywide and many trees are planted all over the country in an effort to “greening the environment”. Sport fishing practiced by some islands is now confined to tag and release method.
In 1997 many activities were carried out under the theme “Independent Maldives, Clean Maldives,” where cleaning and waste collecting activities were carried out nation wide. The spirit still continues in an effort to keep our environment clean. Many resort islands retain the natural vegetation providing an environmentally sound atmosphere in the island. While effective waste management would completely take shape after few years, efforts are made to reduce risks of environmental health problems. The concept of recycling is progressively taking shape and composting is gradually introduced in agriculture.
Maldives proudly hosted a ministerial level meeting, Small States Conference on Sea Level Rise in 1989 calling for many actions incorporated in the Male’ Declaration. Also, the Maldives participated in the Second World Climatic Conference in 1990 and the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. In 1994 Maldives participated in the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and in 1997 participated in the Kyoto Conference. Also in 1997 the 13th Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change was held in the Maldives. Apart from these conferences, the Government has attended small preparatory meetings on environment.
Maldives’ approach to environmental issues as with many other small states, stays in harmony with the concept “Think globally and act locally”.
In a nation with less than one percent land and over 99 percent sea, the weather obviously plays a significant role in day-to-day life. For a long time Maldivians have organized their lives based on a system on nakaiy. Each nakaiy is 13 or 14 days long and is divided into two seasons; iruvai northest monsoon and hulhangu south west monsoon. The nakaiy calendar is still used to determine such things as the best time for fishing, travel or planting crops.
The Maldives has a tropical climate with warm temperatures year round and a great deal of sunshine. The warm tropical climate results in relatively minor variations in daily temperature throughout the year. The hottest month on average is April and the coolest, December. The weather is determined largely by the monsoons.
There is a significant variation in the monthly rainfall levels. February is the driest with January to April being relatively dry, May and October records the highest average monthly rainfall. The southwest monsoon or hulhangu from May to September is the wet season. Rough seas and strong winds are common during this period. The northeast monsoon iruvai falls between December to April. This is a period of clear skies, lower humidity and very little rain. The Maldives is in the equatorial belt and therefore severe storms and cyclones are extremely rare events. However the country is affected whenever cyclones form in the Bay of Bengal or the Arabian Sea. The spiraling clouds of the weather systems appear over the Maldives causing spells of rain.