Ian Lockwood


ES&S Field Study in Malé, Maldives

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OSC’s ES&S class learning about coral reef restoration at Maafushi Island superimposed on the gorgeous Embudu Village dock.

Sustainability -the idea of meeting our needs and maintaining ecological balance while not depriving future generations of opportunities to do so- is a core concept to the interdisciplinary DP Environmental Systems & Societies (ES&S) class. OSC’s ES&S students look at current challenges- issues like climate change, biodiversity loss, resource depletion, pollution etc.- at both a global and local scale. The class has a Sri Lankan/South Asian focus and field work outside of the traditional classroom is vital to learning. Nearby urban wetlands, scrap dealers, recycling enterprises, UN project offices and tropical rainforests all serve as learning venues. Over the Vesak weekend the Class of 2023’s ES&S class extended its field work deep into the Indian Ocean where we had a unique opportunity to explore concepts of sustainability across a diverse selection of coral islands near the Maldivian capital of Malé.

The approach into Malé’s airport gave us a tantalizing overview of a string of coral atolls to the north of the capital. The right images shows Kudabandos and Bandos where we spent our last afternoon.

The South West monsoon was just becoming active during our time in the Maldives.

The field study was generously planned and supported by his excellency Omar Abdul Razzak, the Maldivian ambassador to Sri Lanka and father to DP1 student Eleez. He organized a diverse array of learning events that took us to different islands, project sites and resorts near to Malé. Our focus was learning about freshwater access, energy production, solid waste management and coral reef restoration. The very real issue of climate change and efforts to adapt to its impacts was a part of all of our conversations with experts. We started on Maafushi island and then moved to Embudu and finally Malé for our last night. The class had a chance to interact with island council planners, coral restoration experts and solid waste managers. The monsoon was active but we had several excellent underwater sessions where the class was snorkeling amidst a dazzling diversity of marine life. We appreciated the role that tourism has played in propelling the country’s development-visitation was booming and most places that we visited were at capacity. Staying at Embudu Village resort and spending an afternoon at Bandos courtesy of Nik Olegard’s parents were highlights for the eight students and their two teachers.

Embudu Village dock during our morning of snorkelling.

The study of coral reef ecology and restoration was a key learning objective of the field study. On our final day Beybé, from the NGO Save the Beach, gave us an onsite lecture at Villingili island and then took us on a snorkeling tour through the coral gardens that his organization is restoring. The water clarity was excellent and the fish life abundant. The recovery of a variety of corals placed on submerged metal frames was impressive. The older the restoration, the more abundant and diverse the other marine life.

OSC’s DP1 ES&S students underwater to better understand the ecology and restoration of coral reef systems.

(GoPro) Snapshots from our reef explorations at Maafushi & Embudu.

Perhaps the most unusual part of our trip was getting an informative tour of the solid waste dump on the island of Thilafushi. In past years this was a notorious site with smoldering waste. It is now a landfill and there are future plans to build a waste to energy incinerator on the island. Like Sri Lanka, the Maldives struggles with the high consumption and production of non-biodegradable waste. The limited options for managing this waste and that fact that tourist associate the Maldives with pristine environments provides motivation to make changes that more sustainably address resource use.

Snapshots from tours of Maafushi, Embudu and Thalafushi where we learnt about energy generation, freshwater provisions and solid waste management.

Satellite map of Male and environs showing my Strava heat map of a 7.77 km walk around the city and across part of the new bridge to the airport and Hulhumalé on our final morning.

Our last night was spent in Malé – a place that most tourists don’t see it. That gave us an opportunity to walk its compact streets and peek into Maldivian urban life. Mr and Mrs. Razzak hosted us for a meal on the nearby Hulhumalé where we got to see the expanded urban area on this reclaimed land. At the end of our fourth day we flew back to Colombo impressed by the biodiversity and atoll landscapes of the Maldives and curious about their ongoing efforts at sustainability. The class came away with a new appreciation for the Maldivian approach in using tourism as a strategy of development.

We had a brief but happy reunion with OSC alum (and veteran of the Class of 2017 ES&S class) Ahnaf Ibrahim in Malé on our last night. The photo was taken by Liz Harrison, OSC Science head and Biology teacher who accompanied us on the field study.

Just as we were leaving Bandos to go to the airport a group of Spotted Eagle Rays (Aetobatus narinari) came to feed at the resort’s beach area.


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Written by ianlockwood

2022-05-30 at 10:03 pm

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