Sustainability on the Maldives – is that possible?

Sustainability on the Maldives – is that possible?
© Katja Gutschmidt

I have just been on the Maldives, more precisely at the resorts Reethi Beach, Reethi Faru and Gili Lankanfushi. The central topic of this trip was how to act sustainably on an island, which certainly presents a greater challenge than on the mainland.

 

Too good to be still true in the future?

Here, virtually in paradise, I realized even more what kind of a treasure we lose unless we protect our environment and its inhabitants with all our might. Of course, one might point out that a long distance flight to an island per se has nothing to do with sustainability, which is partly true. However, without tourism people would hardly have any income here, so we should consider this issue pragmatically.

 
Dr. Ameer Awad Abdulla
Dr. Ameer Awad Abdulla © Katja Gutschmidt

 

Think global, act local!

The man who says this knows what he is talking about – Dr. Ameer Awad Abdulla. He is Associate Professor at the Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Science University of Queensland (Australien), National Geographic Explorer (USA) and Senior Conservation Science Fellow of the Wildlife Conservation Society (USA). “The Climate change presents serious problems for the oceans”, says the 42-year-old expert. “Last year, there was a global so-called bleaching event that caused many corals worldwide to die. It is enough that the water warms up by 2 or 3 degrees to result in the death of the algae, which the colorful corals feed on. And without sustenance the corals are not able to survive too.”

“And this is only one aspect. We need sustainable fishing, protected areas, sensitized guests and locals, environmental instruction at schools and hotel managers that start to rethink their strategies”, the scientist states. It is necessary for governments, private companies and ultimately all human inhabitants of our planet to cooperate. This may be an ambitious task, but we will not be able to make a change if we do not start somewhere. Reethi Beach has been the first hotel that participated in the “Marine Managed Area” program in collaboration with the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) in order to help to increase the resilience of coral reefs.

 

Glass bottle Reethi Beach
Water in glass bottles at Reethi Beach Resort © Katja Gutschmidt

 

Plastic is a design flaw

Peter Gremes, General Manager of the Reethi Beach Resort, leads us into the back part of the resort. Here, about 350 employees live that are responsible for a maximum of 250 guests. So, the infrastructure has to be up to scratch. 60 percent of the energy is obtained from photovoltaics. Waste is an especially critical issue. The Reethi Beach Resort provides water in glass bottles only and has designed a special water filtration system for that. In case of the plastic waste that absolutely cannot be avoided it cooperates with Parley for the Oceans: among others Adidas creates and produces Sneakers from the recycling material. Gili Lankanfushi also cooperates with this project that has been initiated  by Cyrill Gutsch, operates worldwide and has many prominent supporters such as Stella McCartney, Fabien Cousteau or David de Rothschild.

 

Emma Bell Gili Lankanfushi
Emma Bell is Assistant Marine Biologist in Gili Lankanfushi © Katja Gutschmidt

 

The Coral Line Project

Emma Bell is Assistant Marine Biologist in Gili Lankanfushi. Together with her colleague she manages the Coral Line Project that has been initiated in 2014. The idea is simple and brilliant at the same time: Simple nylon ropes are used to hold “baby corals”. These are carefully separated, cut into the needed size and twisted into the ropes. The corals need between two and three years for a healthy growth. If you consider all the destroyed coral reefs this seems to be just like a drop in the ocean, but nevertheless the method is successful. “This approach is not expensive. However, it is very time-consuming“, Emma says. “Quite often, we get the assistance of school-children who work with an amazing endurance.” 

It takes us about 1,5 hours to finish our Coral Line number 172, so that it can be installed in the sea. Guests are being encouraged to take on a sponsorship, which costs 140 USD. They are allowed to assist in the procedure and afterwards receive information on its success via email, since Emma and her colleagues carefully monitor the process. They also train marine biologists of other resorts, as it is necessary for all to work together to achieve the desired effect.

So, there definitely are concepts – also on an island – to act sustainably or at least more sustainably than in the past. I have met thoroughly inspiring and passionate people and I hope very much that these examples will catch on!

 

Coral Line Project
Engaging in the Coral Line Project with Rebecca Schirge © Katja Gutschmidt

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