As the country’s main economic driver, tourism is the lifeline of the Maldives. We heavily rely on this industry for the bulk of our dollar revenue, and unsurprisingly, the government’s aim is to increase the number of tourists visiting the Maldives from year to year. No matter which administration is in place, a lot is being done to achieve this goal.
While the government is planning develop new terminals and runways at Velana International Airport (VIA), develop more international airports and acquire more flights to existing locations, efforts are also underway to develop more resorts. The aim of utilizing more islands, sandbanks and lagoons to the Maldives for resort development is to attract as many tourists as possible. But is it really prudent to develop resorts in all uninhabited islands of the Maldives to achieve this goal?
Out of the 2,000 islands in Maldives, about 200 islands are inhabited. Resorts are also being operated in about 200 islands. The remaining 1,800 islands remain. While there are a large number of uninhabited islands across the archipelago, some atolls do not have any. For example, look at the Greater Male’ Region. There are no uninhabited islands in this region where thousands of people live. Kuda Bandos, which had previously been used as a picnic island for residents in the region, has also been developed as a resort.
In addition to Male’ Atoll, resorts have also been developed in several islands of Vaavu Atoll. While work is underway in other islands, some islands have been handed over to various parties. As a result, there are very few islands that can be used for the benefit of residents in the atoll. One such island is Ambara. The island has been used by many people in the atoll and Male’ for travel and leisure. However, the island was also given by the previous government for resort development.
Notably, the people of Vaavu Atoll are generally against the construction of a resort in Ambara. In a letter sent to the Minister of Tourism Dr. Abdulla Mausoom, the Council of Vaavu Atoll noted that the reef around the island is beautiful and filled with different marine life. It is also an important island for local tourism in the atoll, and is one of the only islands in the atoll that can still be utilized for leisure purposes. If the island is developed as a resort, Vaavu Atoll residents will lose this opportunity.
Furthermore, such extensive resort development has a negative impact on the environment and natural habitats. Environmental experts have noted on several occasions that there is a risk of damage to the reefs and marine life. In particular, there is a risk of the endangerment of turtle species due to insufficient space for them to lay their eggs.
The development of tourism is not just about increasing the number of beds and increasing the number of tourists arriving in the Maldives. It has to be done in a sustainable way. Uninhabited islands and reefs play an important role in the marketing of local tourism, and releasing these establishments for tourist resorts would be a huge loss to the industry. Not only this, but it is also a loss to the common man and the environment.