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Hulhumale – island that emerged from the sea

harbour-dredgeNobody knows exactly how many islands the Maldives consists of. The problem is, that while some islands are disappearing under the sea due to sea level rise, other, are appearing…

Estimations of the number of the Maldivian islands range from 1080 to 1302.[1]. The controversy derives from difficulties with defining an island (any piece of dry land or land with vegetation?) as well as with their constant appearance and disappearance. That’s right. Not only is the Maldives sinking, but also… emerging from the sea in the same time. With the help of engineers. One of such islands is Hulhumale.

Hulhumale is situated 20 minutes by dhoni or 5 minutes by a speedboat from the capital of the Maldives, Male. Male is inhabited by one third of estimated 400 thousand Maldivians altogether[2] and measures only 1.6 km by 1.2 km (0.99 by 0,74 miles). That is why Huhumale plays the role of its suburbs, where people escape from the overpopulated city.

Apart from improving the comfort of people working close to Male, reclamation of Hulhumale had another reason. It is a part of the bigger population consolidation plan connected to the flooding of some populated areas.[3]. Although building Hulhumale started over fifteen years ago, its importance was fully appreciated in 2004, when Male was almost completely destroyed by tsunami. just 201

Hulhumale was raised on the reef base located just under the water surface. Atolls belonging to the Maldives were formed as the result of extinction of the underwater volcanoes. While the scone of such geological structure is disappearing under water, coral reef grows a fringing. As a result ring-shaped islands with a lagoon inside are created[4]. The process of regaining it from the sea consists on heaping up great amount of sand, then planting palms and other plants. Even though the raising of Hulhumale is not yet completed there are already housing estates and people living there.

Reclamation of the land absorbed by the ocean is one of the ideas of the Maldivian government of how to fight the effects of climate change and sea level rise. The question is who will be faster in this race: humans with building new islands, or the ocean with flooding these already existing.

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[1] Maps of Maldives 2008

[2] Most recent census showed there were 298,968 people living in the Maldives in 2006. However, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs estimates the current number of Maldivians for 400 thousand.

[3] Abdulla Naseer, Pre-and post-tsunami coastal planning and land-use policies and issues in the Maldives

[4] Darwin 1842

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