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The islands

The typical island is about 1 to 2 square km in size. A shallow lagoon, part of which is used by the islanders as a harbor where they anchor their fishing boats, surrounds it. When you land on most islands what is visible are only shelters for the boats. You reach the dwelling houses by following an unpaved but clean coral sandy road leading from the jetty to the village.

As you go along the road, you would notice the typical vegetation consisting of coconut palms and tropical shrubs and trees. Since most islanders prefer to live in the center of the island, the periphery is left as woodland. In larger islands some of this woodland is cultivated with maize and millet.

The village has about 50 to hundred houses, each having its own compound. The houses are single storied and built of coral stone and roofed with corrugated iron sheets. They are simple and scantily furnished. The villagers like to plant banana, guava and other fruits in their compounds. Sandy roads separate blocks of houses. Traditionally each island has a mosque, the compound of which is used as the village graveyard.

In recent years the islands have acquired more public buildings: the island office, the court and school. Islanders also use the school for meetings and wedding parties.

An important landmark these days is the telephone booth. Most islands don't have telephones in the homes, so the telephone booth is the place where many people spend a lot of time. Sometimes young people may spend hours on the telephone with their lovers, totally oblivious of the waiting line of people.


Some of the larger islands have small lakes, surrounded by mangroves. A typical lake is the one in Hithadhoo, Addu Atoll, seen in the picture above. Land based ecosystems like this are rare in the Maldives, and the government gives special priority to preserve them. Studies are ongoing with Ausaid assistance to protect this particular lake.

The birds that you see in the picture are themselves becoming an increasingly rare site in the Maldives. The government has taken several steps to reverse this trend. Under a notification issued in June 1996, it protected the White Tern (Gygis alba monte), and prohibited its capture, sale and captivity. On the occasion of the Environment Day on 30 June 1999, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom announced his government's intention to protect 22 more species of birds. These have now been brought under the purview of Environment Protection and Preservation Act (4/93).

Rising Sea Level Forcing Evacuation of Island Country

"........For the leaders of island countries, this is not a new issue. In October 1987, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of the Maldives, noted in an impassioned address to the United Nations General Assembly that his country was threatened by rising sea level. In his words, his country of 311,000 was "an endangered nation." With most of its 1,196 tiny islands barely 2 meters above sea level, the Maldives' survival would be in jeopardy with even a 1-meter rise in sea level in the event of a storm surge........"
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