Tagged: Maldives environment

Maldives : Climate Doublespeak and The Great Deformation

Humay Abdulghafoor

Maldives is sinking – a nation in peril!

Maldives is climate vulnerable – fighting for survival on the frontline of climate change!

Maldives faces climate disaster dangerously on the brink of an existential crisis!

Maldives has no higher ground to climb to save its people!

Maldives has declared a national climate emergency!

Maldives calls to make ecocide a crime at the international criminal court!

Maldives enacts a climate emergency law!

Maldives represents climate ambition at the Climate Vulnerability Forum!

Maldives pleads to be “saved” at the UN FCCC COP, vociferously and incessantly every year without fail, trying “to be heard” by the world.

Maldives is a leading voice of the at risk AOSIS and the sinking SIDS!!

Maldives continues to tell the world about its existential crisis, a situation not of its own making, but created by “developed” nations and the great carbon emitters of the world, declaring : “We are paying with our lives for the carbon someone else emitted.”[1]

Make no mistake, stated “climate champion” of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed: “If we do not act now we will lose our coral reefs, we will lose our beaches, and I’m sure tomorrow it will be you.”[2] 

One would imagine that the Maldives, this unique earthly paradise pleading to the world to be saved from climate disaster will join any effort to save itself. 

That would be the logical action of anyone teetering on the brink of an existential threat.

But not the Maldives.

Self-identifying as unique in every way, including its millennia long history, culture, identity and its centuries old 100% Muslimness and great sense of absolute piety, Maldives finds itself unable to tell the glaring truth about itself, to itself. Instead, the country indulges in climate doublespeak internationally while dredging itself into its own early grave.

The leadership of Maldives, starting with the country’s apparently immortal leader Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom, with his style of “development” of the country has always left a trail of irreparable damage to natural heritage and  ecosystems. His successors have followed him.  Each as destructive as the other, at the same time imploring the international community to take urgent action to save the Maldives.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in October 1987, a few months after a devastating wave surge caused significant damage to the Maldives in April that year, Gayyoom said, “we in the Maldives have seen and lived through grim experiences which could be the indicators of the dire consequences of global environmental change provoked and aggravated by man.[3]  In his wisdom, Gayyoom left a legacy of reclamation and destruction of pristine reefs and lagoons, destroying these natural defences as development solutions in his imperiled nation.  Seventeen years later, the December 2004 Asian Tsunami provided ample proof of the power of the Maldives reefs, mangroves and other natural coastal ecosystems to protect the country from climate events. These ecosystems effectively took the full force of the tsunami that blasted at its shores without warning at 500km/hour at “the speed of a jet plane” that December morning, saving countless lives and reducing the death toll.

Gayyoom is the great leader that “developed” Male’, the world’s most congested city slum to the ocean edges of its reef, exposing this low-lying capital city to climate disaster.  He is also the leader that created several other zones of ecocide, including the now infamous Thilafushi apocalyptic waste dump and toxic bomb on a once pristine reef, off the south-western coast of Male’.  Thilafushi is a disaster that has been oozing pollution, contaminating the ocean and its associated marine and human food-chains for decades. He also embarked on an allegedly “safe island” created by destroying another large pristine living coral reef system north-east of Male’, gobbling up nearby Farukolhufushi island in its wake.  Gayyoom, dubbed “a man for all islands” is the indisputable forebearer of the great deformation and distortion of the natural environment of the Maldives.

In 2008, President Nasheed replaced Gayyoom. The Island President outperformed Gayyoom’s rhetoric and doublespeak to tell the world about the Maldives’ vulnerability to global climate change disaster.  He rapidly rose to “climate champion” fame by holding an under-water cabinet meeting, to visually explain how Maldives could well become the next Atlantis.  He too became a leader of the great deformation, embarking on reclamation projects that made Gayyoom’s look like “sixth form projects”.[4]  Across the country, Nasheed launched a campaign of ecosystem degradation and decimation fueled by a political rhetoric of housing need and grand infrastructure developments that left communities bereft of their natural coastal defences.  Global dredging companies were handed multi-million dollar contracts from public debt, and mobilised quickly for “development”.  These trans-national companies happily destroyed the natural reefs and other coastal defences of communities. The communities, led by their saviour-politicians, seemingly unaware of the role these ecosystems played in their survival in the Indian Ocean. The two-millennia long historical indigenous knowledge of human settlement and survival in the ocean archipelago had become forgotten history.

Yameen Abdul Gayyoom arrived in 2013, embarking on an even grander scale of ecosystem degradation – simply because he was the President and he can, so he did. This particular Gayyoom enjoyed the services of trans-national dredging company Van Oord that decimated Maldives during the global coral bleaching peak year of 2016, “with care”, and impunity.  While the coral reefs bleached to near complete loss across the country, dredgers conducted funeral rites by allegedly conducting reclamation over a 600km project footprint, giving the reefs no chance, let alone to recover.  President Yameen is globally known for his involvement in Stealing Paradise, a corruption scandal of a magnitude thus far not documented in such detail in the Maldives. This Theft of Maldives is reported to have involved the liberal, generous – and criminal – distribution of reefs and lagoons to the easiest bidder who wanted a piece of paradise, intent to create money selling paradise, mostly by creating artificial islands requiring intensive reclamation, loss and damage.  Examples of these abound in North Male’ Atoll, with the involvement of global names such as the Waldorf Astoria. This wave of deformation of Maldives has transformed the visual natural beauty of the country to something unrecognisably ugly and unworthy of the label, “paradise”. The erased marine biodiversity and habitat loss is out of sight and out of mind, while resort developers busily green-washed their artificial dead zones.

Not satisfied with the nationwide acts of ecocide by global dredging companies like BoskalisMT Højgaard and Van Oord, President Yameen chose to invest in the country’s very own wrecking machine, a suction hopper dredger baptised “Mahaa Jarraafaa”, received from China in 2017 with great fanfare.  Its first victim was the island of Kulhudhuffushi in Haa Dhaal Atoll which is one of the largest such ecosystems in the country. The island lost its climate resilience to an airstrip, dispossessing sustainable community livelihoods of hundreds of families in the project’s wake.  The tarmac was laid in the middle of its ancient white-mud wetland and mangroves which made up the island’s groundwater recharge, flood-water drainage and climate defence systems. The island just happens to be the largest urban centre in the north of the country, located in a “tsunami high risk” zone.[5]  Kulhudhuffushi now experiences increased flooding and damage to property on a regular basis.  Civil society calls to conserve the wetland’s remaining part continue to be ignored. This case exemplifies the depth of (dis)regard for the Maldives’ climate vulnerability expressed by its climate-champion leadership over the decades. As reef systems were blasted and macerated by machines, the Maldives trembled under the pressures of dredging developments.  Young Maldivian blogger Yameen Rasheed (brutally murdered for his courage to express his thoughts) left us this satirical yet apt observation in his blog The Daily Panic in 2016. “Deriving perverse pleasure from blowing up a ten-thousand year old coral reef may seem excessively pornographic. But when accompanied by tea and refreshments, it is a downright adventure.”  

The impunity with which ecological damage was done in Yameen Gayyoom’s administration continued unhindered, following the election of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in 2018.  This latest island president is content with the ecosystem degradation inflicted by unchecked reclamation.  The administration engages in patchy public relations activities at opportune moments to ‘protect the environment’.  Declarations are made protecting specific areas, while advocating a policy of protecting “one island, one reef and one mangrove” in each of the 20 atolls in the country, which is closer to public mockery than public policy!  Not to be outdone by his climate champion predecessors, President Solih is yet another saviour who gives his own ghost-written speeches about the government’s desire to save the country’s natural beauty.  Speaking at the opening of the parliament in 2019, he said:  “To preserve the tropical beauty of the Maldives and safeguard the archipelagic nature of our island nation, the Government will give special priority to protecting our natural environment.”[6]

Exhibiting his definition of environmental protection, President Solih’s 3+ year administration has engaged the services of the long-established Maldives State owned enterprise (SoE) MTCC Plc to wreak havoc on the country’s natural environment.  The company celebrates its business of irreversibly undermining the climate resilience of communities as a matter of national pride.  Like other disaster-capitalist ventures, MTCC boasted record profits at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, a trend which continues in 2022, making the President giddy with a sense of achievement and calling the company a “role model”.  What the narrative conveniently sets aside is the inconvenient truths of the irreparable harm MTCC has been consistently unleashing on the country, the actual cost of which is never counted or accounted.  These projects generate repeat business, as they leave the people of Maldives wide open and exposed to climate disasters that have to be rectified with more unsustainable remedial projects from public debt.  President Solih is the current climate-champion of the Maldives giving his full commitment to the great deformation of the Maldives.   His government is forging ahead with another record-breaking project that threatens to destroy over 2km of coral reef ecosystems impacting marine wildlife and habitat including several marine protected areas.  This is the government’s wonder-project, the Gulhifalhu Port Development project, contracted to Boskalis Westminster without a bid in 2019. The project is facing civil litigation in court at the moment.  The latest in the continuing acts of State sponsored ecocide is the sudden and ad-hoc initiation of a multi-million-dollar reclamation project to join Shaviyani Atoll Komandoo with its neighbouring island Mathikomandoo, on the eve of a parliamentary bi-election.  The climate resilience of this already destroyed island and its people is the last thing on the leader’s mind if at all, the priority being the parliamentary seat at stake.

A notable attribute of successive Presidents at the helm of the Maldives’ great deformation is the complete lack of interest to assess the damage they inflict on the country’s finite coral reef ecosystems, as they indulge in their doublespeak at international fora.  Maldives shows no interest to study its own ecosystem degradation, loss and damage, but stand eager to lead the call for others to act and provide funds to climate vulnerable nations, notably to itself.  Maldivian governments act entitled to such funds, with no semblance of accountability for its own self-inflicted destruction, evidence of which is collected and studied mostly by those outside the country.  This complete disregard to the realities of science is the real death-knell to the Maldives.

As the UN Secretary General announced “Code Red for humanity” and the UN IPCC heralds a bleak future for nations on the frontline of climate change, the Maldives is set to arrive at that place of irreparable environmental doom by expediting that horror on itself before the global climate systems do.  The Maldives is wilfully tipping itself into the climate crisis.  The climate champions of the Maldives are in fact, irreverent self-harmers, killing the nation’s own lifelines and immune system to sustain their immediate political and business greed, at the expense of the country and people they are elected to govern.

Maldives is being sunk by its “climate-champion” politicians.


[1] Comments by former Maldives’ President, Mohamed Nasheed, the CVF’s Ambassador for Ambition, following the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report, The Climate Vulnerability Forum, [undated – circa August 2021], https://thecvf.org/our-voice/statements/president-nasheed-remarks-on-ipcc-ar6-wg1-report/

[2] Lecture by His Excellency President Mohamed Nasheed, at Freie Universiate [sic] Berlin, The President’s Office – Maldives, 11 March 2010, https://presidency.gov.mv/Press/Article/22422

[3] Address by His Excellency Mr Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of the Republic of Maldives, before the Forty Second Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the Special Debate on Environment and Development, 19 October 1987, Friends of Maldives (web archive), http://papers.risingsea.net/Maldives/Gayoom_speech.html

[4] Words used by President Nasheed at a stakeholder function in Male’ describing coral regeneration projects in Maldives 

[5] Detailed Island Risk and Vulnerability Assessment, HDh Kulhudhuffushi, Ryan Pvt Ltd / Ministry of Energey and Environment, November 2013

[6] Unofficial translation of the presidential address, 2019, The President’s Office – Maldives, 7 February 2019, https://presidency.gov.mv/Press/Article/20617


About the author: Humay is a concerned citizen trying to raise awareness about unchecked environmental degradation in the Maldives. She is a volunteer for the Save Maldives Campaign www.savemaldives.net @SaveMaldivesMV

First they came for Faafu III

by Azra Naseem

3. Muizzing Maldives

Yesterday, from The Guardian, Dhivehin finally learned what the government has in store for the Maldives. The publication ended weeks of speculation as to what Dear Leader Yameen has been planning for us ever since he got up close and personal with the unscrupulous and filthy rich Saudi royal family.

Oh, he dropped many hints: what is coming will change the very map of Maldives; it will be larger than your [little raffushu] imaginations; it will be development like no one has ever seen; it will make Maldives the envy of the world.

But he stopped just short of telling people what exactly it is. Because people’s reaction may endanger the deal. Maldivians cannot be trusted with the great plans he has for the Maldives.

But yesterday, through The Guardian, Yameen’s cabal finally chose to reveal details of what is to happen: residents are to be relocated to larger atolls, ‘leaving smaller islands ripe for development.’

Thousands of years old island way of life, sustainable development, living with the fragile environment, looking after the astounding natural beauty of the country for future generations—fuck all that. That’s airy-fairy arty-farty New Age hippie bullshit. Solar power, carbon neutrality? Pfft. Who has that kind of time to waste?

“We want to bring better living conditions to the whole country over a small period of time,” housing minister Mohamed Muizzu tells The Guardian.

This is the same Minister, whose unplanned haste to ‘bring development’ to Male’ has led to so many disastrous undertakings that people now say ‘That’s Muizzed” to describe projects–often work that don’t need doing, to fix something that isn’t broken–that become ever messier with each vain attempt to get it right at an ever increasing cost.

So here they are, these members of the kakistocracy ruling Maldives who– knowing so much what the people should want for themselves regardless of what they actually do–are ready to usher in what they call super development: geo-engineered artificial islands built as super-resorts, six-star hotels, high-end housing, high-tech centres, economic free-zones and foreign universities…all for ‘the global elite’, of course.

Meanwhile, the people of Maldives—the very people who have been excluded from the billions earned from 20 years of high-end tourism—will be relocated from their too-small-to-live-on-islands onto the so-called Greater Male’ Area where acres and acres of land is being reclaimed from the sea for this very purpose.

There they will live happily ever after in purpose built high-rises with running water, garbage bins, and plumbed toilets to shit in. Hip-hip-hurrah!

They will, of course, go to the same schools bursting at the seams as now, will be taught by the same barely qualified teachers, will work in the same dead-end jobs in the vast behemoth that is the civil service, or will clean hotel rooms and be bare-chested butlers in sarongs bowing deeply to provide the super-rich with ‘the authentic Maldivian experience’ as they sip their US$100 cocktails.

But, never mind. There will be plumbing at home.

Dhivehin shouldn’t expect much more. Their numbers are just too small for their existence to make any economic sense. What would be really economically viable would be to annihilate them, but then even the super-rich may balk at investing in real estate straight after a genocide. They’d wait at least one or two years; and time is money.

Once the plan is realised, number of visitors to the Maldives will increase from 1.3 million (over three times the population) to more than seven million within ten years (over 18 times the population). The Marine Research Centre—yes, the Marine Research Centre, which you’d think is looking out for the country’s natural resources—thinks this is a marvellous idea. In fact, according to Director Shiham Adam, it could be what saves the Maldives.

“People are investing huge amounts of money. They are not idiots,” says this very brainy scientist. “You can build an island in four weeks with suction dredgers”.

It would be absolute idiocy to think that this causes any damage to the environment; that it will kill the marine life, lead to erosion, destroy beaches, and shrink the entire land mass of the Maldives drastically. According to Shiham, all the existing resorts are just lovely little ‘mini marine reserves’, and there’s no reason (except science, which you don’t really need to consider when time is of the essence) to think the reclaimed super resorts would be any different.

What about sea-level rise that could put 75% of the Maldives underwater by 2100?

‘That’s not going to happen next year,’ says the director of marine research.

What does not happen before Yameen’s election in 2018, and 2023—or in his lifetime—should not concern us. That’s for the future. “We have immediate needs.’ And fulfil them these geniuses will. To hell with future generations, it’s not like they even exist.

This is what is ‘good for the people’, says Muizzu. He knows. That should be enough.

Let us all courtesy collectively to King Salman when he arrives, and pray that his rule over us would be as kind as it is over the people of Saudi Arabia, that he will consider our children with as much love as he does the children of Yemen. Let us all raise our hands in supplication to Yameen, our Saviour, for his Great Economic Vision. Let us all say thank you to all the super-rich billionaires and multinationals who are coming to save us from our inconsequential little lives in the shitty little ‘Indian ocean backwater’ called Maldives that so many people have mistakenly viewed as paradise on earth for so many centuries.


 

First they came for Faafu I : Of Kings and Pawns

First they came for Faafu II : Of Myths and Monsters

 

First they came for Faafu II

Scary-Sea-Monster (1)

by Azra Naseem

2. Of myths and monsters

This is a very interesting story.

Today’s Crown Prince and Defence Minister of Saudi Arabia Prince Mohamed was not always a very popular member of the aristocratic Saudi royal family. Those days, Mohamed used to spend a lot of time in the Maldives. He stayed on an island in Faafu Atoll and went snorkelling. When the Prince went past Himithi on these trips, he marvelled at its beauty.

His noble heart took a fancy to Himithi. He made contact with the government, and through it, the varuvaa holders. The Prince got permission to develop the island as his own private holiday retreat. At the same time, Mohamed’s star began to shine bright on the Saudi horizon. King Abdulla died and Mohamed’s noble father Salman ascended to the throne. Mohamed became Crown Prince, and was given the powerful position of Defence Minister. Prince Mohamed is the visionary who designed the present Saudi economy and drew up Saudi Arabia’s new development plans.

With so much responsibility to bear, the Prince no longer has the opportunity to swim in the seas of the Maldives. But the Prince has not forgotten Himithi. Even King Salman knows just how much Mohamed loves the Maldives. The King himself, with his own noble tongue, told Maldivian President Yameen so. What’s more, the King himself also loves the Maldives, just like the noble Son Mohamed. The King made an official visit to the Maldives at the beginning of President Yameen’s rule.

The Prince has now changed his earlier concept of creating his own private retreat on an island. The close friendship President Yameen has with Saudi King Salman and his Noble Son played an important role in making this change happen. The new drawings were created by the very best designers in the world. That President Yameen has been granted the opportunity to view these designs can be understood from what the President said in his latest speech in Faafu Atoll. There have only ever been just two or three such concepts in the entire world.

They will build a big big city like Dubai in the Maldives. They will invest dollars in many billions. Saudi Arabia has such vast riches this is nothing to them. Big land will be reclaimed to build this city.

The ‘interesting story’ above is an extract from the chief narrative the Maldives government is disseminating to tell people the story of how President Yameen has made a deal to sell territory in Faafu Atoll to a group of rich privileged men from the Saudi royal family.

It is a clever strategy.

Every state has its founding myths, narratives repeated so often through time they become ‘truths’. These narratives become the basis on which national identities—and often policies—are built. Take, for example, the narratives of American Exceptionalism, and Satthain Sattha Maldives. These narratives, when repeated in various forms, pull at the national ‘psyche’, and successfully reactivate nationalism, patriotism and other such emotive ideologies the disseminators want during a given period of time.

In the tone and manner of telling, the government’s Saudi sale narrative is very similar to the Rannamari myth at heart of the Maldivian identity of Satthain Sattha Muslim. Non-Muslim Maldivians living in darkness, plagued by monsters, and existing in a perpetual state of fear, were shown the light by a learned scholar from the holy lands of Arabia who, with the help of a wise King open to religious enlightenment, paved the way for Islam, prosperity, and eternal peace in the Maldives. Since then, says the narrative, Maldives has been a Hundred Per Cent [Satthain Sattha] Muslim country.

Until now, that is. Today the Satthain Sattha identity is under serious threat, says the government.

Irreligious Laa Dheenee locals colluding with the Great Satan of the West, have come together to threaten the faith of Maldivians. These monstrous forces have been launching sustained attacks on Maldivian belief systems ever since a majority adopted the Western concept of democracy. Embracing these values have stood in the way of development and prosperity, and weakened Maldivians’ belief in Allah.

Maldivians of the 21st Century need rescuing, just like those of the 12th Century. Fortunately for Maldivians, wise President Yameen, like the enlightened King who embraced Islam in 1153, has become friends with not just a multitude of Arab scholars, but the King of Arabia himself, and his Noble Son, the Crown Prince Mohamed. Mohamed will bring Islam back to the Maldives in its proper form. He will save the Maldives.

The plans for Faafu are far from mere economic genius.

So-called gentry and their jealousy

Another narrative planted in the ‘independent media‘, and successfully taking hold, is that criticisms of the Maldives government deal with the Saudi royal family are manufactured by the Privileged Male’ People jealous at the prospect of mega development somewhere other than Male’.

The Male’/Raajjethéré divide is not in itself a myth. Vast differences exist between the capital island and the rest of the country in terms of economic development and provision of primary needs such as education and health. Fostered by these inequalities  systematically created by the central government in Male’, a ‘truth’ was constructed in which people of Male’ are somehow superior to that of people born elsewhere.

This long surviving inferiority/superiority complex–although weakened substantially in recent times–survives like racism, apartheid and other such systems of inequality do elsewhere. Now the government is picking the scabs of this national wound, and drumming up support for the deal in Faafu by making people feel the injury afresh. The allegations of Male’ jealousy plays to audiences who have long suffered inequalities stemming from the centralisation of power. Given the familiarity of the narrative, it very much rings ‘true’.

The Yameen government has completely dismantled the fledgling structures and nascent plans geared towards decentralisation. In this light, the the idea that the Faafu project  is intended to empower people of the atoll and surrounding areas is laughable. Decentralisation experts have pointed out that when Yameen came to power, existing laws required atoll assets to be handed over to respective islands and atolls. But local councils have since been systematically stripped of any authority and power. If empowerment of the people is a motive that drives government plans for outer atolls, why strip people of the atolls of all authority over their own resources?

Fact is, Yameen has already signed the dotted line on the deal it made with the royal family. The deal was sealed long before people came to know about it. It was done with zero public discussion on the inevitable and irreversible damage the Saudi Mega City project stands to cause to the fragile Maldivian environment; national security implications; or how it will change Maldivian society and culture.  The most powerful way—perhaps the only way—to resist the future they have carved up for Faafu, and by association the entire Maldives, is for the people to consider these threats and unite against the plans.

The (re)telling of powerful national myths in times of crises is a tactic that can be more effective than the brutal crackdowns that bring democratic protests to a stand-still. To drum up support for the War on Terror, US leaders tapped the myths of American Exceptionalim and Manifest Destiny. The narratives being (re)told by the Yameen government work to unite people in support for the Faafu plans against the manufactured threats to their religious beliefs and their right to equality.

In selling Maldivian land to the great Saudi Royal Family, custodians of Islam’s holiest sites, the government has brought not just riches but also blessings from Allah to the people of Maldives. In a single deal, the president has paved the way to resist the Infidels who are attacking Islam in the Maldives on so many fronts, and to shrink the demon of irreligiosity. All the while he is cutting those privileged superior Male’ people down to size by making the people of Faafu equally rich, empowered, and closer than ever before to God (by association with the Saudi Royal Family).

Only the irreligious, the foolish, the jealous and the arrogant would object.


First they came for Faafu I: Of Kings and Pawns

First they came for Faafu III: Muizzing Maldives

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