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Country Background Information: Maldives

Maldive flag

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tropical beach

Tourism is the main industry in the Maldives. It has 1,190 islands, with 200 inhabited. The availability of drinking water and arable land are its limiting factors. As sea levels rise, salt water can encroach on the lenses of fresh water stored in the ground.


Maldives has one of the richest marine biodiversity in the world. All the islands in the Maldives are atolls or ring-shaped coral islands. In unusually hot weather, coral reefs can become ‘bleached’ when the coral loses the algae that lives within it and provides it with food. In long hot spells, this can lead to the coral dying. Over 60% of its reefs are already bleached. As the climate warms, more bleaching events are predicted.

maldives underwater

Over 80% of the Maldives is less than 1m above sea level. This makes the country very vulnerable to sea level rise. In 2009, the Government held a cabinet meeting under water to highlight its vulnerability. Source: Flickr/ Sindi


The Maldives hold a range of coastal ecosystems including coral reefs, seagrass beds, lagoons, beaches and small areas of mangrove. These coastal and marine ecosystems are the asset base of the national economy. For example, tourism is based wholly on the health and attractiveness of Maldives’s coastal features. Source: Wikimedia Commons / Nevit Dilmen


The total population of the Maldives is just over 540,000. The number of people living in poverty in the Maldives has fallen rapidly in recent years such that now there is very little. Recent migration to the Maldives from South Asia, Egypt, Russia etc. has been to fill jobs in tourism, construction, health and education sectors. Migrants make up over a third of the population.

male arial photo

Most people live on the capital island, Male. Congestion is an issue. It is the 7th most densely populated island in the world. Source: Flickr / Timo Newton-Syms

cargo boat

Imported oil and diesel are the main power source for the Maldives. The Maldives also imports wood, iron and steel, pre-fabricated buildings, vegetables and cement. Source: Flickr / Mark Fischer


Fishing is the second largest industry in the Maldives. Fish is the dominant export from the islands. Fishing relies on healthy marine ecosystems. Source: Flickr / Mark Fischer


Many tourist resorts are reporting severe beach erosion as sea levels rise. Source: Flickr / Neville Wootton


Coconuts are important to Maldives’ agriculture and economy. Coconut production is its main agricultural activity while copra made from coconut palms is one of its top export products. Source: Flickr / Easa Shamih