Maldives’ southernmost Addu, Fuvahmulah atolls declared UNESCO Biosphere Reserves

Addu and Fuvahmulah have been declared UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, making the southernmost atolls only the second designated biosphere reserve in the Maldives.

The declaration was made at the 32nd session of the UNESCO International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme, which is taking online.

Before Wednesday’s declaration, the Maldives only had one UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve: Baa atoll.

Being the only one-island atoll and the third largest natural island in the Maldives, Fuvahmulah features a diverse range of habitats, ranging from tropical woodlands and wetlands to freshwater lakes, well-vegetated marshland areas, white sandy beaches of different variations and pebble texture plus gravel beaches and fertile lands of humus greater in area than any other island in the Maldives. 

Two freshwater lakes in the island plus the many number of swamps and marshland areas in the island give habitat to different plant and animal species not to be found anywhere else in the Maldives.

Nature parks developed to promote eco-tourism has recently opened in Addu and Fuvahmulah. Visitor centres and boardwalks have been built in the lakes, offering tourists access to the aesthetic beauty of the wetlands and various plants previously hidden from view.

However, Fuvahmulah lacks proper facilities for tourism, except a domestic airport. Only a handful guesthouses provide accommodation to visitors.

Despite several new resort developments and a boom in guesthouse tourism in the Maldives, Addu too has lagged behind for years in attracting tourism-related investments.

Up until recently, the relatively large atoll, which has unique geographical features compared to other parts of the island nation, was home to only two of the some 150 plus tourist resorts in the Maldives; Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa, and Canareef Resort Maldives.

South Palm Resort Maldives, a brand new property developed on the uninhabited island of Ismehela Hera, opened in 2019.

Biosphere reserves are ‘learning places for sustainable development’. They are sites for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity.

Biosphere reserves include terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each site promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.

Photo: The Edition

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