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27 April 2016 -

Save The Beach Maldives

 
Save The Beach Maldives has come far from its humble beginnings as a Youth Movement in Villimale’ initiated in 2008, with the aim of conserving the natural beaches of Male’ City from reclamation projects for the benefit of future generations. Today, the organization has expanded its interest and involvement to areas such as waste management, marine life conservation, rehabilitation and conservation of reefs and the compilation of a national database. 
This year, Save The Beach Maldives, in collaboration with The University of Genoa and Albatros Top Boat, hopes to launch its most ambitious project to date.  It is not only the first ever local expedition of this kind but is an extension of our on-going projects on a nationwide scale - the Turquoise Expedition: an intensive programme of research from the North to the South of the Maldives, providing education and training to local communities along the way.
  
 
Our partner for the Turquoise Expedition, The University of Genoa, has been in the forefront of Maldivian reef research, having surveyed Maldivian reefs for the past 19 years. The UNDP, Marine Research Centre of Maldives, the Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Ministry of Education endorse the expedition and trainings we plan to provide. 
The Turquoise Expedition aims to educate the public on the importance of conservation in the face of changing climate and impacts to the environment caused by human actions such as pollution. Training will focus specifically on waste management and reef research methods. Tool kits and manuals will be shared with the schools and systems can be implemented at their own pace. Trainings will also be carried out on turtle protection and identification protocols. 
 
Targeted towards creating international and local hype, excitement and support, a Reality Weekly TV Show documenting the Expedition – will run for three seasons. We hope this local TV production once promoted both locally and internationally, will ultimately encourage more people to be involved in conservation projects, as well as spread awareness about environmental mishaps that are currently happening and empower the public to do something about it. 
The entire project aims to increase public participation in conservation through various activities to experience the oceans. Trial dives, guided snorkelling and other interactive activities will be carried out during our island visits in addition to a much-anticipated local ocean competition amongst all 26 atolls – The Badhavee Challenge.  We hope to host a grand Turquoise Festival at a location close to the Capital City, Male’ this year, to ensure that we gather as much support as possible before embarking on the second portion of the Expedition. 
One of the ongoing projects that will be expanded on a nationwide scale during the expedition would be the implementation of waste management protocols and regularly conducted beach cleanups. Save The Beach Maldives conducted its first waste audit in 2012, to identify types of trash and waste found on the beach, and has since been continued on a periodical basis. During this audit, the majority of waste was classified as “other” being a mix of cigarette butts, fabric and clothing items, charcoal from BBQ’s, sand collected in plastics and so forth with the next highest count being attributed to “plastic” waste (plastic bags, PET, HDPE etcetera).  
 
In an effort to further engage communities with environmental conservation activities, Save The Beach has also hosted awareness sessions in primary and secondary schools as well as with local NGOs. One of the most important achievements under this project is that, in addition to the considerably more intensive weekly (on Saturdays) and annual beach clean ups organized with a larger participation from the local community, the Villimale’ beach does get cleaned on a daily basis. The organization is also responsible for the placement of waste bins that are now spread across the island in an effort to promote best practices in waste disposal. 
As with any cause, Save The Beach was founded based on more than the intention of saving a solitary beach, it was created with a holistic for the future and through an overwhelming and shared passion towards saving the environment. The beach cleanups and other community engagement activities hence acted as a gateway to further hone the intentions of the organization towards furthering its reach in the protection of the environment. As local reefs play a definitive and major role in conservancy, Save The Beach’s Reef Monitoring and Rehabilitation Programme was a natural progression of the organization’s interest and activities, and is another aspect of that the Turquoise Project will expand on, and will involve acquiring invaluable data about the reefs in every atoll in the Maldives so that future programmes may be designed to address specific issues.  
The first major project undertaken by the Reef Monitoring and Rehabilitation Programme was funded by the UNDP and took place in 2014, at the Villimale’ House Reef, by replanting broken coral fragments. As the efforts coincided with the Hulhumale’ Reef being reclaimed, Save The Beach Maldives took the opportunity to attempt a relocation of corals which would otherwise be destroyed. Out of the corals relocated from Hulhumale’ to Villimale’, less than 20% survived. 
 
The One Nation Coral Revival, a community outreach event, was planned to involve locals in the reef rehabilitation process by allowing them to participate and witness in the replanting of corals and the damages incurred prior to the event. Broken fragments of the Villimale’ reef, though ideal for such purpose, proved to be insufficient in quantity. Coupled with the reclamation of Uthuru Thila taking place, the organization decided to make the best of the circumstances and once more harvested corals for relocation. This event allowed Save The Beach to disseminate vital awareness information about the vulnerability and importance of our local house reefs to the communities of Villimale’ and Male’. One Nation Coral Revival was a very successful event, attracting participation from various NGO’s and Schools and the reef parade in particular, was widely covered by the press.
Ultimately what we, as an organization learnt about conducting awareness programmes and implementing conservation efforts, led us to believe that there is a great deal more to be done, before true change can be affected. We, as environmentalists, are still a minority in a nation that is not only plagued with environmental issues but it is also arguably one of the most susceptible lands to the devastating effects of environmental change, as its people are 100% dependent on the stability of its environment for their livelihood. If the people of Maldives were truly well educated about their environment and the disastrous events taking place around them, we believe that they would understand that it is their best interest to protect and conserve it.  
 
It is this dream that gave life to the Turquoise Expedition. The expedition aims to travel to all 26 geographical atolls in the Maldives, visiting the most populated islands for 2-3 days each, in order to empower the local communities across the country to take matters into their own hands and to protect the environment that sustains them. While we conduct reef checks, waste audits and compile vital scientific knowledge for a national database, we also absolutely hope to bridge the gap between Maldivians and the beautiful beaches, reefs and marine life that they are blessed with and to foster a deeper appreciation for what we take for granted every day. 

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Thanks to Daniel Brinckmann for the article and photos.

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