High time to fight climate change and mitigate environmental problems: Dr. Ahmed, Minister of State for Education, Maldives
Dr Abdulla Rasheed Ahmed is the Minister of State for Education of the Republic of Maldives. He is a distinguished educator with 30 years of experience in the field of education. He was a public school principal for 18 years and is the former vice-chancellor of Avid College.
He is currently director of the National Institute of Education. Dr Ahmed has received several prestigious national and international awards. He is also the Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Education Advisory Council. Dr Pramod Jaiswal, senior editor of strategic affairs at Khabarhub, spoke with Dr Abdulla Rasheed Ahmed.
As Nepal and the Maldives are both heavily dependent on tourism and vulnerable to climate change, the conversation focused on issues related to climate change and tourism in the Maldives.
While low-lying island nations face an uncertain future or no future at all, the future looks relatively bleaker for nations like Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Maldives. How can the governments of these countries redouble their efforts for more action-oriented programs in their fight against rising sea levels?
As you mentioned, climate change is really a global problem. From the Maldives, our President is very committed to taking all necessary steps to make the Maldives a low carbon future. The government plans to phase out single-use plastic and promote green energy to mitigate the negative impact of climate change.
What do you think of the global arrangements and decisions taken in response to the climate crisis?
In short, I can say that the Maldivian government has placed a very high priority on combating climate change, promoting the environment and mitigating environmental problems.
In one of your previous presentations you mentioned the importance of global goals and national policies as an effective approach to climate change, what would be your view of these goals and policies?
My vision is that everyone who lives in the Maldives will be eco-literates aware of environmental issues on a global scale, and then we will act at the national, local and individual levels, which means that in the future we will all think globally and act locally. This is the vision I have.
Can you tell us about the “Fehi Madharusa”, also known as the “Green Schools Initiative” by the government of Maldives? What are its objectives and the targeted beneficiaries?
“Fehi Madarsa” or green school is based on four pillars: ocean, land, waste management and innovation. The objectives of this “Fehi Madarsa” of Green School include to reduce the environmental footprint, that is to say to reduce the environmental impact on the school and at the individual level, including energy, water. and waste, with particular emphasis on single-use plastic in accordance with the Government of Maldives. elimination plan.
Another goal is to promote eco-literacy – all school committee members must demonstrate environmental and sustainable literacy with particular emphasis on ocean management specific to the unique geography of the Maldives.
The third objective of the “Fehi Madarsa” project is to improve climate prosperity, that is, to prepare students for a low carbon future that also ensures economic prosperity.
The goal is to nurture the innovative and resilient generation. The beneficiaries would be students, staff, even parents and the community at large.
What is eco-literacy and how can education help promote climate action? What are your suggestions on how to mainstream education as an essential and central part of the national and international response to climate change?
Eco-literacy is the ability to understand the natural systems that make life on earth possible. Climate action is needed for this.
Climate action is an increased effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build capacity for resilience and adaptation to climate-induced impacts. In order to make our people eco-literate, there are different ways, that is, through formal curriculum, non-formal curriculum even when our curriculum has integrated eco-literacy.
Then the question is, what about the general public, what about parents. So what we need to do is try to educate everyone about eco-literacy through different awareness programs, TV shows, media and a good example is what you are doing now for the people of Nepal and even the international audience, through this type of effort, it can be finished.
How has climate change affected highly climate sensitive economic sectors like tourism? What kind of challenges is the tourism sector in the Maldives currently facing due to climate change?
Climate change is an existential threat to the small coral islands that make up the Maldives. As you know, over 80 percent of the world’s land area is less than one meter above sea level, so if even a one meter rise would result in a significant loss of all land of the Maldives.
So it’s really a threat to the tourism industry as millions and billions of dollars have been invested in tourist islands, guest houses or any tourism related investments.
And other effects that we can see now are, according to some researchers, that the coral reefs of the Maldives experienced two severe bleaching episodes, one in 1998 and the other in 2016. After the 1998 bleaching event , 90 percent of hard corals are dead.
It took him 16 years to recover the pre-bleaching values of the living hard coral blankets. And also, we can see soil erosion, tidal waves.
Tourists come to Maldives to enjoy the marine life or the underwater beauty which is very famous. A lot of tourists come to the Maldives to see the marine life, to see the beautiful coral and those things.
Because of climate change, coral bleaching is here, the life that depends on these coral reefs would no longer be there. So these are serious issues.
Given that tourism contributes to a high level of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, particularly from energy consumption such as the use of fossil fuels and the transport of tourists, what mechanisms would you suggest to tourist destination countries like the Maldives and Nepal to reduce the environmental impacts caused by tourism?
Many tourist resorts are already eco-friendly beach resorts, but as you said there is a lot that tourist resorts can do to minimize greenhouse gases, for example in Maldives most of the world electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, so rather than doing it. they should consider producing more green energy like wind power, solar power and waves.
In the Maldives we have about 12 or 11 hours of sunshine per day, so solar power is quite possible. We can see in some islands the electricity providers which are government enterprises also use solar energy.
So, the question is why not all stations opt for green energy and different means and different modes of green energy, not depending on any type whatsoever solar energy, wind energy or the energy produced from waves.
So, these types of investments are really beneficial for everyone because the tourist resorts or the tourism industry are very much related to the environment. So there is a lot to do.
How would you define the concept of Sustainable Tourism Development? What steps has the government of Maldives taken towards sustainable tourism development?
Sustainable tourism is a type of tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic and environmental impact by meeting the needs of industry visitors, the environmental community and costs as well.
We should not only think of the benefits of the moment or of the present generation only because this world / earth is not ours only.
We must give it to the next generation. Therefore, we should not be greedy or we should not be irresponsible in doing things only for the benefit of present needs.
We also have to think about the future. Therefore, the goal of sustainable tourism should be to increase the benefits and reduce the negative impact of tourism on destinations.
This can be achieved by protecting the natural environment, marine life and natural resources when developing and managing tourism activities.
Why are cadres as such important and what can countries like Nepal learn and adopt from such initiatives?
The framework is very important because when we have a framework we understand the current issues and the scope of it and what are the things we should be doing. We can see the best practices from different countries.
Different countries have different policies, different theories and different frameworks and if it is a best practice of a particular country it would benefit Nepal as it is proven that these strategies or practices already work very well. .
Only what one country can do is take the best practices or models from another country before implementing them and make the necessary adjustments to adapt them to local needs, which will be very helpful.