Good Fishing in Rising Seas: Kandholhudhoo, Dhuvaafaru, and the Need for a Development-Based Migration Policy in the Maldives

  • Andrea C. SimonelliEmail author
Part of the Global Migration Issues book series (IOMS, volume 6)


Recent research has shown that many people dependent on environmentally-based livelihoods have begun to use migration as a method of adaptation to deal with climate stresses on their livelihoods. Utilizing circular, seasonal, and temporary migration can assist households dependent on natural resources such as those in the agricultural sector. While this strategy can be employed by individuals and households through their own agency, there are others for whom migration as adaptation is needed but harder to realize. This is the case for some fishing communities in the Maldives. Isolated and close to sea level, Kandholhudhoo is a case study in the deterioration of living conditions before an economic base and the limits of adaptive capacity. For many years, rising seas have battered this small and over-crowded island, flooding homes and damaging buildings. Local interviews provide evidence of resilience, but also a lack of options. Inhabitants detail rising seas within their lifetimes and individual strategies for coping with the changes they have experienced such as replacing their belongings. The specific vulnerabilities of isolated islands to climate change necessitates a policy response to allow for individual agency to be more freely used. Not every interviewee desired to choose mobility, but most could not afford it even if they had wanted to. Development policy has the potential to assist those seeking to utilize internal migration as adaptation, but in the Maldives the process has been slow and has only benefitted a few. Policy suggestions which consider issues of overpopulation, island structural integrity, a limited economic resource base, and temporality are proposed.


Climate change Maldives Adaptation Migration Development 


  1. (2009). EACH-FOR environmental change and forced migration scenarios. In J. Jäger, J. Frühmann, S. Grünberger, & A. Vag (Eds.), D.3.4 Synthesis report. European Commission.Google Scholar
  2. Adger, N. (2003). Social capital, collective action, and adaptation to climate change. Economic Geography, 79(4), 397–404.Google Scholar
  3. Adger, N., Dessai, S., Marisa, G., Hulme, M., Lorenzoni, I., Nelson, R. D., Naess, L., Wolf, J., & Wreford, A. (2009). Are there limits to adaptation to climate change? Climatic Change, 93, 335–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Argawal, A., & Perrin, N. (2008). Climate adaptation, local institutions, and rural livelihoods (IFRI Working Paper #W081-6). Ann Arbor: School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  5. Athukorala, P. (2014). Trade policy making in a small island economy: The WTO review of the Maldives. The World Economy, 27(9), 1401–1419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barnett, J., & Adger, N. (2003). Climate dangers and atoll countries. Climatic Change, 61, 321–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Betts, A. (2010). Survival migration: A new protection framework. Global Governance, 16, 361–382.Google Scholar
  8. Black, R. (2001). Environmental refugees: Myth or reality? Geneva: UNHCR.Google Scholar
  9. Black, R., Bennett, S. M., Thomas, S., & Beddington, J. R. (2011). Climate change: Migration as adaptation. Nature, 478, 447–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boano, C., Zetter, R., & Morris, T. (2008). Environmentally displaced people: Understanding the linkages between environmental change, livelihoods, and forced migration. Oxford: Refugee Studies Centre.Google Scholar
  11. Butler, J. R. A., Skewes, T., Mitchell, D., Pontio, M., & Hills, T. (2014). Stakeholder perceptions of ecosystem service decline in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea: Is human population a more critical driver than climate change? Marine Policy, 46, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chambers, R., & Conway, G. R. (1992). Sustainable rural livelihoods: Practical concepts for the 21st century (IDS Discussion paper 296). Brighton: Institute for Development Studies.Google Scholar
  13. Cutter, S., Mitchell, J. T., & Scott, M. S. (2000). Revealing the vulnerability of people and places: A case study of Georgetown County, South Carolina. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 90(4), 713–737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dun, O., & Gemenne, F. (2008). Defining ‘environmental migration’. Forced Migration Review, 31, 10–11.Google Scholar
  15. Fussel, H. M. (2006). Vulnerability: A generally applicable conceptual framework for climate change research. Global Environmental Change, 17(2), 155–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fussel, H. M., & Klein, R. J. T. (2006). Climate change vulnerability assessments: An evolution of conceptual thinking. Climatic Change, 75, 301–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hare, W. L., Wolfgang, C., Schaeffer, M., Battaglini, A., & Jaeger, C. C. (2011). Climate hot spots: Key vulnerable regions, climate change and limits to warming. Regional Environmental Change, 11, S1–S13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. IPCC. (2014). Annex XX: Glossary [J. Agard, E. L. F. Schipper, J. Birkmann, M. Campos, C. Dubeux, Y. Nojiri, L. Olsson, B. Osman-Elasha, M. Pelling, M. J. Prather, M. G. Rivera-Ferre, O. C. Ruppel, A. Sallenger, K. R. Smith, A. L. St. Clair, K. J. Mach, M. D. Mastrandrea, & T. E. Bilir (eds.)]. In Climate Change 2014: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part B: Regional aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (pp. 1757–1776) [V. R. Barros, C. B. Field, D. J. Dokken, M. D. Mastrandrea, K. J. Mach, T. E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K. L. Ebi, Y. O. Estrada, R. C. Genova, B. Girma, E. S. Kissel, A. N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P. R. Mastrandrea, & L. L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Jäger, J., Frühmann, J., Günberger, S., & Vag, A. (2009). Environmental Change and Forced (EACH-FOR) Migration Scenarios Project Synthesis Report.Google Scholar
  20. Kelly, P. M., & Adger, N. (2000). Theory and practice in assessing vulnerability to climate change and facilitating adaptation. Climatic Change, 47, 325–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kelman, I. (2015). Difficult decisions: Migration from small island developing states under climate change. Earth’s Future, 3(10), 133–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kench, P. S., McLean, R. F., & Nichol, S. L. (2005). New model of reef-island revolution: Maldives, Indian Ocean. Geology, 33(2), 145–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kothari, U. (2002). Migration and chronic poverty (Working Paper, Vol. 16). Manchester: Institute of Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester.Google Scholar
  24. Kothari, U. (2014). Political discourses of climate change and migration: Resettlement policies in the Maldives. The Geographical Journal, 180(2), 130–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lewis, J. (2007). The vulnerability of small island states to sea level rise: The need for holistic strategies. Disasters, 14(3), 214–249.Google Scholar
  26. Liverman, D. F., et al. (1990). Vulnerability to global environmental change. In Understanding global environmental change: The contributions of risk analysis and management. Worcester: Clark University.Google Scholar
  27. McCubbin, S., Smit, B., & Pearce, T. (2015). Where does climate fit? Vulnerability to climate change in the context of multiple stressors in Funafuti, Tuvalu. Global Environmental Change, 30, 43–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Niyaz, A., & Storey, D. (2011). Environmental management in the absence of participation: A case study of the Maldives. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 29(1), 69–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pelling, M., & Uitto, J. I. (2001). Small island developing states: Natural disaster vulnerability and global change. Environmental Hazards, 3, 49–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Prouse, M., & Scott, L. (2008). Assets and adaptation: An emerging debate. IDS Bulletin, 39(4), 42–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Shah, K. U., Dulal, H. B., Johnson, C., & Baptiste, A. (2013). Understanding livelihood vulnerability to climate change: Applying the livelihood vulnerability index in Trinidad and Tobago. Geoforum, 47, 125–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Simonelli, A. C. (2014a). Perceptions and understandings of climate change and migration: Conceptualising and contextualising for Lakshadweep and the Maldives (Field report 1). Norwegian Research Institute.Google Scholar
  33. Simonelli, A. C. (2014b). Perceptions and understandings of climate change and migration: Conceptualising and contextualising for Lakshadweep and the Maldives (Field report 2). Norwegian Research Institute.Google Scholar
  34. Sovacool, B. K. (2012). Perceptions of climate change risks and resilient island planning in the Maldives. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 17, 731–752.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Turvey, R. (2007). Vulnerability assessment of developing countries: The case of small-island developing states. Development Policy Review, 2, 243–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Vince, G. (2009). Paradise lost? How the Maldives is fighting the rising tide of climate change. New Scientist, 2707, 37–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Warner, K., & Afifi, T. (2014). Where the rain falls: Evidence from 8 countries on how vulnerable households use migration to manage the risk of rainfall variability and food insecurity. Climate and Development, 6, 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Warner, K., Ehrhart, C., de Sherbinin, A., Adamo, S., & Chai-Onn, T. (2009). In search of shelter. Mapping the effects of climate change on human migration and displacement. Chatelaine: CARE International.Google Scholar
  39. Warner, K., Afifi, T., Henry, K., Rawe, T., Smith, C., & de Sherbinin, A. (2012). Where the rain falls: Global policy report. Bonn: CARE France and The United Nations University.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Adaptation Strategies InternationalUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations