UNDP Maldives takes a “fight and flight” response to climate change

  • The Maldives is the lowest lying country in the world. It is formed by a chain of 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean, and home to nearly 400.000 people. It’s a home that now faces the threat of extinction due to climate change. Eighty percent of the islands in the Maldives are only one metre above sea level. Without urgent action, the Maldives, like many other island nations around the world, could soon disappear.
  • "I have lost hundreds of banana plants, which has cost me the income I depend on to sustain my household," Ameena tells us. One important step towards helping Ameena and her neighbours is creating risk maps, which provide essential data required to inform emergency response plans. Images of the same area taken over time, including before and after a disaster, can help design actions to protect people and property from the hazards of climate change.
  • In response, UNDP and the Government of Maldives came up with an out-of-the-box idea. They decided to fly drones across the islands to create three-dimensional maps and chart the topography of the terrain. And the initial results are very promising: it took just one day for a drone to map an entire island.
  • UNDP partnered with DJI, the leading drone company from China. The local team is now working with to the Disaster Management Centre and the Maldives National Defence Force to figure out how to get the most out of using drones in disaster planning and relief missions. For now they have a complete 3D map of Maabaidhoo Island. The map shows where the coast has been eroded at one end and where the soil is protected by a mangrove plantation on the other. For Ibrahim and other community leaders, it offers important clues about which areas would be safest in case another tsunami strikes.
  • The map is just the beginning. Drones alone cannot resolve the challenges brought on by climate change, but they can be a powerful ally for communities on the frontlines.