On this World Environment Day, I am happy to be speaking to you from this paradise – Maldives. The country may be small in size, but it is a place of outstanding natural beauty and vibrant culture. These lands and seas are abundant in nature’s wealth. It is home to some of the richest reservoirs of tropical and marine life on the planet.
Despite these assets, small island nations such as the Maldives face numerous challenges. An entire culture and way of life is under threat. As the climate continues to change, we are seeing more pressures on things we value - such as our beautiful islands and seas, and the plants and animals that live in them. A threat to the environment is a direct threat to the people who inhabit it.
Maldivians have lived in harmony with their environment for centuries. Photo: UNDP Maldives 2016.
This is why embracing an environmentally-friendly way of life is so important here. The natural environment must be protected and conserved, so that we can be stronger in the fight against climate change. Working with nature brings multiple benefits. These benefits are not only essential to sustaining tourism activity, but also lives and livelihoods.
When managed effectively, natural systems can help us fight the heat, control flooding, capture drinking water, clean our air and produce food. Maintaining healthy natural systems also provide a range of additional social, health and economic benefits.
Women of Kudafari island undertaking efforts to regenerate corals. Photo: Abdulla Adam 2016.
In the Maldives, UNDP is working with partners and communities to together find localised solutions to development challenges.
In the island of Kudafari, we are reviving corals for the island’s reefs through aquaculture. It will help prevent coastal erosion, and revitalize marine life. Coral regeneration efforts also increase livelihoods opportunities for the community who are dependent on tourism and fisheries. After the devastating El Niño and subsequent coral bleaching this year, this is a proven method of coral rejuvenation which can be replicated by communities to revive their coral reefs.
Mud crabs are important to maintaining the healthy ecological balance of the mangrove ecosystem. Photo: UNDP Maldives 2016.
Similarly in Kendhikulhudhoo Island, we are helping the community to nurse mangrove mud crabs. These crabs are important to maintaining the healthy ecological balance of the mangrove ecosystem. This initiative is assisting in invigorating the economic and environmental benefits of mangrove ecosystems, allowing their function as a natural barrier to be enhanced. It is also allowing women to directly gain economic benefits from their natural environment.
Collective action needed to safeguard our environment and way of life. Photo: Jin Ni
Our environment sustains us. We have to be better stewards of this amazing nature that surrounds us. Today is the day for all of us to once again appreciate our environment, and to take action to protect it, especially at the island level. Through our collective efforts we can reduce our ecological impacts and help safeguard our environment, and quality of life.