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Maldives’ Wetlands Help Fight Climate Change

MD Staff

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Photo: World Bank

The lighthouse stands guard over the wetlands. Perched at one end of Koattey, it was built by the British who had a military base on the nearby island of Gan during World War II. Scattered across this area are other points of historical interest including the remains of an old fort. However, while tourists may pause to appreciate the ruins, it’s not what they’ve come to see.

Hithadhoo, the capital of Addu city in the Maldives is home not only to the Koattey Protected Area, but also to Eydhigali Kilhi, one of the largest wetlands in the country. This area, lush and beautiful, is famous for its birds. The eastern grey Heron, the Maldivian pond heron, little egret and white tern can be spotted throughout the year. The white tern or dhondheeni, also seen here, is considered a symbol of Addu. This is just one of an estimated 41 islands in the Maldives that boast wetlands.The lighthouse stands guard over the wetlands. Perched at one end of Koattey, it was built by the British who had a military base on the nearby island of Gan during World War II. Scattered across this area are other points of historical interest including the remains of an old fort. However, while tourists may pause to appreciate the ruins, it’s not what they’ve come to see.

Wetlands are the new tourist attractions in the Maldives

33-year-old Aishath Farhath Ali has been working in conservation for 11 years. The Wetlands Component Coordinator for Climate Change Adaptation Project (CCAP) at the Maldivian Ministry of Environment and Energy, Aishath is passionate about preserving the island nation’s wetlands.

“Maldives is a developing country,” she says, explaining that that can mean the budget tends to prioritise infrastructure and utility services. “However, due to our fragile nature, biodiversity conservation is a priority for our government…Through this project we will establish the first terrestrial park in this country,” she says. She hopes it will give tourists another reason to visit a country famous for its beaches and coral reefs.

Nature-based tourism is the engine of economic growth in this island nation, accounting directly for about 28 percent of the country’s GDP. About 800,000 tourists visit the country annually, but as coral reefs are degraded, the Maldives has to look for ways to support the tourism sector.

To make the wetlands more attractive to visitors, new facilities including visitor centres, bird observatories, interpretive signage and changing rooms are being built under CCAP in Hithadhoo. Visitors can hire boats and canoes to explore, go bird-watching or hiking, or simply wander along scenic boardwalks in both wetlands. While foreigners are expected to turn up in numbers, it is the locals that are likely to really enjoy these facilities.

CCAP is funded by the European Union and the Government of Australia. It is administered by the World Bank and implemented by Ministry of Environment and Energy. Through interventions in wetland management and solid waste management in the Addu and Gnaviyani atolls, the project will benefit more than 4,800 households.

A ‘primary defense’ against climate change

Tourists aside, for an island nation like the Maldives, which is grappling with climate-change related risks — including sea-level rise, ocean acidification, increasing air and sea surface temperatures, and changing rainfall patterns — wetlands offer essential protection.

Fuvahmulah city on the Gnaviyani atoll – another designated protected area falling under CCAP – sees heavy rainfall. Its wetland catchments play an indispensable role in flood management explains Mohammed Hamdhaan, an environment and social safeguards officer for the CCAP.

The Maldives comprises some 26 atolls and 1,190 islands – all of which are low lying with an average elevation of only 1.5m. Wetlands, which can store several tens of million cubic meters of water, act as barriers against rising sea levels and flooding caused by extreme weather events. 

Wetlands contribute to waste water management, groundwater recharge, freshwater storage, and purify water that flows through their systems. Plants found here are critical in controlling erosion – erosion of the shoreline is already a severe issue in 64 percent of the Maldivian islands.

As their importance to climate change adaptation efforts has become better known, steps are being taken to preserve these ecologically sensitive areas. Introducing solid waste management programs has been key to protecting wetlands from illegal dumping, says Mohammed. Mainstreaming climate change adaptation into island development planning has also been promoted through other components of the CCAP project, for instance through a program on strengthening local government capacity.

“All these components are linked,” says Mohammed. “Wetlands and coral reefs are the primary defence that a small island nation like the Maldives has against climate change.”

Promoting community participation by boosting eco-tourism

Recruiting community support is integral to ensuring these conservation efforts are sustainable. Outsiders have entered the wetlands to find firewood but illegal cutting down of trees is being curtailed with the community’s intervention.

The wetlands remain a source of food and livelihoods for these people. Aishath explains that taro reeds growing in and around the wetlands are used to weave mats and baskets but that with the advent of plastic this craft is now threatened. However, training is now being given to locals to help revive this lost art. These and other traditional Maldivian handicrafts, including embroidery work, will be sold in small store attached to eco-tourism facilities in the wetland parks.

Beyond livelihoods, taro also has a role to play in food security. Islanders remember how during World War II a famine gripped these parts, and this humble reed was the only source of nourishment. It is still a staple food today. The wetlands are a rich source of not only taro and other foods, they can support subsistence fishing and are a source of medicinal herbs.

“The community around these wetlands are very much dependent on them,” explains Aishath, adding that over time villagers living on the fringes of the wetlands have become protective of these wild spaces. “There is an awareness now that wasn’t there before.”

World Bank

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Cities

Take a pre-cruise vacation and ‘live like a local’ on Florida’s Space Coast

MD Staff

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There’s something magical about taking a cruise. Is it the open ocean? The indescribable feeling of warm sea air blowing through your hair? The endless access to world-class food, drinks and entertainment? Whatever the reason, each year millions of people around the world set their sights on the fun, adventure and luxury that cruise ships have become known to deliver.

Located on Florida’s Space Coast, bustling Port Canaveral is one of the largest and busiest cruise ports in the U.S. As the home port to some of the most-innovative players in the cruise world, there’s a good chance that your next cruise might depart from this vibrant east coast venue.

With so much to see and do on the Space Coast, many cruise passengers extend their vacation by a day or two in this fun-filled port city, so they can settle in before their departure and bypass any last-minute travel challenges. It’s called taking a “pre-cruise,” and it’s a perfect way to immerse yourself into the rhythm of your vacation and ensure you’re well-rested and prepared for your cruise adventure. To truly experience and get an intimate feel for the special way of life on the Space Coast during your pre-cruise, you’ll need to explore the area like a local, starting with these five must-do activities:

Treetop Trek Located at the Brevard Zoo, the Treetop Trek allows visitors to climb, crab walk and zipline through different animal habitats and have an up-close experience with wildlife. With three different aerial obstacle courses, this heart-racing activity provides something fun for everyone.

Duran Golf Club What would a trip to Florida be without a few rounds of golf? And we’re not just talking about any old kind of golf. No, we’re talking a world-class course that attracts pros, beginners and everyone in between. A favorite among locals and nationally recognized players, Duran has been voted “Best Public Course” and ranked as one of the top 50 courses in the country for practice ranges.

Riverfront Park — Once you experience Riverfront Park in historic Cocoa Village, you’ll quickly understand why this is a favorite place for locals to hang out. With public access to nearly 10 acres of prime riverfront land, you’ll see plenty of people jogging, playing, relaxing and loving the sun, as good Floridians do. The park includes a playground, amphitheater, boardwalk, spacious covered pavilions and areas for fishing.

Ossorio Bakery & Cafe We could write pages about how delicious the food here is, but this handful of words usually will suffice: hand-rolled pastries and homemade ice cream. Caught your interest yet? Located in historic downtown Cocoa Village, Ossorio has been providing locals with unforgettable meals and treats in a relaxed and friendly setting for the past 15 years.

Superb FishingYou know how they say there are plenty of fish in the sea? Here, that’s literally true. Along the Space Coast, there are something like 500 different species of fish inhabiting the local waters. From deep-sea fishing to surf casting to quietly angling along a peaceful river or lagoon, there are numerous guides and outfitters who can take you on a fishing adventure like no other.

You’ve spent months, maybe even years, planning your dream cruise vacation. Take an extra day or two and make it even more special by exploring the Space Coast. You deserve it.

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A journey from Heydarabad to Alinjagala Fortress

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Vasif Talibov, the leader of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (Azerbaijan), has shown to the world a deep commitment towards strengthening his country’s response to the threat of climate change, enhanced urban development, revamped sustainable tourism industry and promoted reforestation projects throughout the regions of Nakhchivan. The architects of the Paris Agreement and international community in general ought to pay a greater attention to the remarkable accomplishments that were proudly implemented by Chairman Vasif Talibov, who has made Nakhchivan, the westernmost province of Azerbaijan, become as developed as any western European country.  Over the last decade, Chairman Talibov has radically transformed the renewable energy production matrix of Nakhchivan, a region that has the world’s highest number of hydroelectric power plants per square kilometer, making this territory of Azerbaijan home of seven hydroelectric dams, one solar power plant and one gas turbine. Furthermore, the city of Heydarabad, only a few meters away from the border with Armenia and a hundred yards away from a desolate precarious Armenian village, is testimony to a perfect urban setting with paved roads, where a brand new middle school, health care center and a city hall make it an attractive tourist destination.

Vasif Talibov

Additionally, foreign visitors will appreciate a prosperous city with all amenities on the Azerbaijani side and on the Armenian side there is a terribly poor community with houses built out of adobe or mud bricks; indeed it appears to be an abandoned village that is artificially implanted by Yerevan’s fascist regime.

On November 23rd, 2017, as I was traveling from Nakhchivan city to Shahrur region, it is remarkable to observe the overwhelming reforestation campaigns organized by the Government of Nakhchivan on both sides of a widely paved highway, a project that had involved civil society leaders, Nakhchivan State University students and faculty and members of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.

Chairman Talibov’s vision and dynamic leadership has encompassed another sector that is very important to Azerbaijan’s national economy, tourism infrastructure and restoration of historical, archaeological sites have proved to be vital in the promotion of the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan across the world. The Alinja – Gala Fortress is an emblematic monument that has attracted thousands of tourists and rushed forward as a symbol of Chairman Vasif Talibov’s pragmatic leadership in restoring historical monuments and bolstering the tourism industry at a time when Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan has been selected as the world’s capital city of Islamic culture.

Merely located one hour away from Nakhchivan city, Alinja – Gala fortress, a masterpiece of Chairman Vasif Talibov’s vision, is a genuine tourist destination and a cultural monument that is equally a brilliant engineering innovation established at the top of a rock on the VI century.  The fortifications crowning its defense system are at an altitude of 1,800 meters.  Indeed, in Azerbaijan there are other fortresses built at a greater height but they cannot be compared to Alinja – Gala fortress. The combination of natural obstacles and the art of fortification, make this structure impossible to conquer by force.

Up to fifty buildings have been located at the top: barracks, warehouses, and a prison for highly dangerous criminals, a bathhouse, stables, bakeries, a mint house, an extensive arsenal, the treasury and the ruler’s palace.  Many leaders have deposited their treasures in this fortress; including the great Atabeys of Azerbaijan, the Ildenizids, the Khulaguids and the Jelairids.  At that time it was hard to find a safer place than Alinja – Gala, the quantity of treasures deposited in Alinja-Gala can be ascertained from the fact that when a ruler from the Chobanid dynasty, Malik Ashraf, wanted to retrieve them out of the fortress, he needed 1,000 camels and 400 mules to transport his wealth.

The Eagle’s nest, in the fatherland of Mammad Araz Ibrahimov – a Nakhchivani poet – has only two mountain paths leading to the fortress.  On the eastern slope its narrow path, on which only two people could climb, was blocked by three walls and on the western side – by eight walls.  Each had a height of up to nine meters and was made not of brittle bricks, but of large stones.  There was no point in trying to destroy this structure with a ram or medieval cannons.  Moreover, watchtowers, and signal stations where built on the roads leading to the citadel, and on the slopes, there were small shelters for two to three arches at a distance of 20-25 feet from one another.  In general, in Alinja – Gala, every inch of land could be taken only at the cost of the invaders’ lives.

It is imperative to note that Alinja – Gala fortress is located at the helm of a steep mountain that would immediately bring to a total exhaustion every warrior equipped with an armored uniform, therefore becoming an easy target to the arrows of over 600 defenders of the fortress.

Such a historical monument epitomizes the best that Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan has to offer to international history buffs and to an audience that is eager to appreciate early medieval cultural monuments that are meticulously restored and easily accessible. Alinja – Gala Fortress is a signature piece of restoration led by Chairman Vasif Talibov, a transparent, effective elected official that has made Nakhchivan one of the top destinations in Europe.

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UNESCO and CHANEL empowering women in Madagascar through sustainable tourism

MD Staff

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© UNESCO

A new programme aims to help women in Madagascar who have missed out on the economic benefits of growing tourism.

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world with the almost 80% of the population living on less than $1.90 a day. Tourism has grown significantly in recent years but the industry has often failed to translate into economic prospects for local communities, and, in particular, women.

UNESCO’s CapED Programme has been active in Madagascar since 2011 supporting the country’s vocational education and training, with particular emphasis on agriculture, being the largest sector. In January 2018, CapED formed a partnership with Fondation CHANEL  to further vocational education and training in the area of sustainable tourism, with a particular focus on women. The programme will benefit communities surrounding the Tsingy Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the western coast of Madagascar. While this site attracts a high level of tourism, the local population does not benefit from this opportunity.

The innovative partnership brings together expertise from UNESCO’s Culture and Education Sectors. It works to provide women with access to training and opportunities in the sustainable tourism sector to improve their livelihoods and help them become financially independent.

Two vocational training programmes encourage sustainable tourism and support local produce. Six hundred women will be trained to grow vegetables to sell in local hotels and markets or to produce marketable handicrafts, supported by a designer while preserving local traditions. These products will be awarded a Sustainable Tourism Label. The women will also benefit from literacy and accounting lessons. The second programme provides vocational training opportunities to local youth in sustainable tourism trades such as hotel or restaurant management and is offered through training centres already supported by the CapED programme.

The programme is co-financed by the Government of Madagascar, Fondation CHANEL and UNESCO’s CapED Programme, with in kind support from the US Embassy and National Geographic.

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