OPEC Fund Quarterly: What are the Maldives’ current priorities when it comes to adapting to climate change? Ibrahim Ameer: Maldives is among the countries most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. This is mainly due to the low-lying nature of our islands and dispersed geography, as evidenced by the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, which left more than one-quarter of the inhabited islands with severe damage to infrastructure and one-third of citizens affected. These vulnerabilities are further aggravating the development challenges facing the country, especially with our limited ecological, socio- economic and technological capacities. As the Maldives is already facing the consequences of climate change, the government gives very high priority to investing in adaptation actions and building the resilience of our island communities. Adaptation priorities are provided in the Maldives Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). They include:

Enhancing food security Agriculture and food production are very limited in the Maldives due to land scarcity, poor soil conditions and limited water resources. The Maldives is a highly import-oriented economy with respect to its staple food requirements. Its scattered, unique geography results in tremendous barriers and added risks related to adequate storage and distribution facilities, especially when it comes to handling unexpected market conditions.

Infrastructure resilience Considering the highly vulnerable nature of the Maldives, critical infrastructure requires additional protection from the potential adverse impacts of climate change. International and domestic airports and seaports, communication and healthcare facilities – in addition to island communities – are some examples that need climate-proofing, and this requires significant resources.

Public health Mortalities due to vector-borne diseases is an emerging health challenge, while the incidence of waterborne disease is high during extreme weather events because some people have inadequate access to safe water and sanitation. Climate-proofing health facilities and enhancing emergency services is important. Building our health systems to address these issues and challenges requires technical, institutional and financial investments.



Ibrahim Ameer, Maldives' Minister of Finance on complex challenges in the face of climate change

Water security The Maldives has limited freshwater resources. In most of the islands, the groundwater is not suitable for use due to saltwater intrusion and poor quality. Climate change is expected to pose further risks to the availability, accessibility and quality of water sources. Rainwater is the main source of drinking water in many of the outer islands, whereas groundwater is used for other domestic purposes and agriculture. Changes in average annual and temporal patterns of rainfall have led to localized water stress in a large number of islands. This has required augmentation by desalination alternatives and transportation of water resources to water stressed locations (mainly from the capital Malé).

Coastal protection The islands of the Maldives are low-lying and beach erosion is widespread causing significant loss of land and coastal infrastructure.

Safeguarding coral reef and biodiversity Coral reefs are an important contributor to the economy, supporting tourism and fisheries. The reefs represent a rich biodiversity, providing food and livelihoods to island communities. This vital ecosystem is highly sensitive to changing sea surface temperature and other climatic factors. The situation in the Maldives supports the assertion that warming of the ocean surface leads to significant coral bleaching. In some instances, coral reefs surrounding the islands also are stressed because of land-based sources of pollution.

Tourism The Maldives has a ‘one island, one resort’ concept of tourism. The protection of beaches and coastal infrastructure is important to safeguard the tourism and related facilities, which represent massive capital investments.

PHOTO: OPEC Fund/Steve Hughes

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