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The archipelago of the Maldives, about 1,000 kilometers southwest of Sri Lanka, in the Indian Ocean, has long been considered one of the countries most exposed to the consequences of climate change: 80 percent of its territory is less than one meter above sea level and it is estimated that due to rising ocean levels a large part of it could be completely submerged by the end of the century. Among the possible solutions that the local authorities have begun to experiment, there is a very particular one: the construction of one new floating city which will be built ten minutes by ship from the capital Malé and which when completed will be able to accommodate up to 20,000 residents.
The initiative was born from the collaboration between the Maldives government and the Dutch Docklands real estate development company; the project was carried out by the architecture firm Waterstudio, which is based in the Netherlands and in the past has been involved in designing hundreds of residences, offices, schools and floating health centers worldwide.
The new floating city will rise in a lagoon about 2 square kilometers and will host thousands of buildings built on a series of “floating islands”, including houses, restaurants, shops, schools and hotels. The buildings will be equipped with electricity obtained from photovoltaic systems and will have systems of sea water air conditioning, that is, that exploit the water pumped from great depths to cool the environments. On the islands, separated by various channels, you can move on foot, by bicycle or with electric scooters.
The floating buildings will be built on a site in the area and then dragged into the lagoon, where they will be connected to a concrete platform fixed to the seabed by telescopic steel pylons. Both this structure and the coral reef around the lagoon will allow to give stability to the floating city, reducing the oscillations caused by the waves.
The first buildings will be completed by the end of June, and the first residents will be able to move there in early 2024: the goal is to create a self-sufficient city that functions as if it were on the mainland within five years, by the end of 2027.
It has long been known that the Maldives are in danger of being submerged by water and disappearing by 2100 as a result of climate change. However, it seems rather complex to find concrete and practicable solutions to resolve the emergency at the local level, especially given that according to various analyzes, the commitments made so far at a global level to reduce polluting emissions and achieve so-called carbon neutrality are not sufficient to avoid a further increase. of temperatures by the end of the century, with catastrophic consequences across the planet.
For now, one of the most ambitious projects launched by the Maldives government is the construction of the artificial island of Hulhumalé, which is also located a few kilometers north of Malé and has been named the “City of Hope”. Like the new floating city, it was designed primarily to house people who live in the capital today – one of the most densely populated cities in the world – and those who may no longer have a home in the future. However, his project showed some notable limitations, such as the risk of damaging the marine environment and the problem of waste management.
Koen Olthuis, founder of Waterstudio, he said to CNN that the environmental impact of the floating city has been carefully assessed with the collaboration of marine biologists and government authorities, and that the new project will demonstrate that there can be “affordable housing, extended communities and safe cities even on the water” .
Patrick Verkooijen, head of the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), an international organization that is involved in evaluating possible solutions for adaptation to climate change, also seems to agree. According to Verkooijen, building floating buildings can be a functional and economically sustainable strategy to address the issue of rising seas: however, much remains to be done to ensure that projects like this are built on a larger scale and in an ever more efficient and faster way.
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