|Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. President Waheed Hassan yesterday outlined his vision for safeguarding the nation’s unique natural environment and protecting its vital tourism sector. Speaking at an event entitled “The Maldives Story”, President Waheed told an audience of more than 50 international delegates about the series of innovative green policies which have been implemented to protect the country’s most valuable natural and economic resources: it’s pristine beaches; fabulous reefs; spectacular corals and rich and diverse marine life.
The President told delegates that, for more than a decade, the Maldives has proven itself an innovator in implementing sustainable tourism policies. Environmental impact assessments are mandatory before resorts can be built, restrictions have been placed on building heights and no more than 30% of the country’s land can be built on. Similar measures have been taken to protect the marine environment, with bans put in place to prevent coral mining and the catching and killing of marine turtles and sharks.
Recognising the Maldives as one of the countries most threatened by climate change, the President called on the international community to pledge financial assistance to help fund his ambitious plans to make the Maldives a global leader in sustainability. He directed delegates to the high costs of tackling severe beach and coastal erosion and coral reef degradation and to building sustainable waste management and sanitation facilities.
President Waheed was joined by the Ministers for the Environment, Foreign Affairs, Economic Development and Tourism for a Q&A session to discuss the specific challenges facing Small Island Developing States. They answered questions about negotiations to create a climate fund; protection of fish stocks from overfishing and from unsustainable fishing practices; and the country’s plan to become more reliant on renewable energy sources.
During the exchange with delegates, the President committed to an initiative which will see environmental officers situated in every resort to promote sustainable tourism practices. He further called on international partners to play a more active role in protecting Indian Ocean fisheries and committed to a target of having 60% of the country’s energy generated through solar technology.
Speaking at the event, President Waheed said:
“We treat our natural environment with respect and because of this we continue to attract visitors from all over the world to our country. However, this environment is under threat and the threat is imminent. We have committed to taking drastic action to protect the Maldives for future generations and we urge the rest of the world to follow our lead”.
Notes to editors:
1.In conjunction with the fishing industry, the tourism sector generates around 90% of the Maldives’ GDP. The sector also employs around 65,000 people, approximately 57% of the workforce, and brings in more than 70% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
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