The Maldives currently consists of over 1,000 coral islands, around 200 of which are inhabited. Now, thanks to the country’s partnership with Dutch architecture firm Waterstudio, it will have at least one more.
That proximity and space could take some pressure off the crowded capital of Malé. According to the Maldivian government, the city is currently one of the most densely populated pieces of land in the world, and its population density is “increasing at an alarming rate each year.”
In addition to providing much-needed space, the floating city represents a necessary step to protect Maldivian inhabitants and tourists from sea level rise caused by manmade climate change. More than 80% of the land area that makes up The Maldives sits a yard or less above sea level.
Scientists estimate that, depending on the level of emissions burned in the 21st century, global sea levels could rise anywhere from a little over half a yard to two yards by 2100, putting 410 million people at risk.
The effects of sea level rise are already being felt. In 2016, a team of Australian researchers determined that at least five of the islands that make up the Pacific Ocean’s Solomon Islands disappeared between 1947 and 2014.
“Sustainable floating cities are a part of the arsenal of climate adaptation strategies available to us,” Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of U.N. Habitat, the United Nations program for sustainable urban development, said in a statement. “Instead of fighting with water, let us learn to live in harmony with it.”
The Maldives’ floating city plan comes as South Korea looks to begin construction on its own floating city, OCEANIX Busan, later this year. Though South Korea’s project was announced first, Waterstudio calls The Maldives’ project “the world’s first true floating island city,” noting that it has been “developed to equally embrace sustainability and livability” in close cooperation with the local government.
In addition to its benefits for residents, the city will also provide “blue habitats” that will encourage coral growth. Construction is slated to begin in early 2023 and the entire city is expected to be completed in five years.