Australia Awards Scholarships – Maldives Biosphere

November 14, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski

Since the nineteen fifties thousands of South Asian leaders have
seized the opportunity to further their knowledge at Australian universities
through prestigious Australia awards scholarships
their new knowledge and skills are improving countless lives in their home
countries Naeem
I think Maldives is a country where we have a very beautiful environment and itís really
a very fragile environment. If we donít care for our environment we will
not be safe here because itís the environment which protects us if you think of all aspects
of life ñ physically, socially, economically itís the environment which protects us Ö
And our economic pillars like the tourism or the fisheries, both depend on the quality
of the environment. Naeem
As a result of the people using the same resources at the same time there are conflicts and resource
depletion. And we have seen a decrease in the abundance
and number of for example manta rays and whale sharks and this decrease is negatively impacting
the economy and the livelihood of the people. Narrator
Baa Atoll in the Maldives is home to 11,000 people and eight high-end resorts scattered
across 75 islands. Below the water line it is also home to a wealth of marine life, including
whale sharks and manta rays. Surrounding the seemingly insignificant Hanifaru
island, is a globally significant manta ray breeding ground, attracting tourists and vital
income for the entire Atoll. To manage this valuable resource sustainably,
the government has declared Baa Atoll Maldives first Biosphere Reserve so that people and
nature can co-exist harmoniously. The Atollís ëhoney potí, Hanifaru island, has been declared
the countryís first protected marine park. Visitor numbers are now limited and those
who enter pay a fee. Narrator
As head of the Environmental Protection Agency, it is Naeemís job to help make the Maldivesí
first biosphere and marine park work. He says his Australia Awards Scholarship,
which allowed him to do a Masters at the University of Queensland in Environmental Management,
positioned him to lead the EPA as it faces the many challenges this entails. Naeem
We have so many challenges. One is the lack of trained people in protecting and managing
these areas. are now training local staff in the Baa Atoll that is a new development. Narrator
Among those being trained is ranger Ahmed Fareesh. He grew up in the area and with national
unemployment hovering around 28%, he is pleased to have landed a good local job. Ranger
We are attending a scene (clip D03 0094) They are catching sea cucumbers Ö Iíve told
them this is a protected area and you canít do anything itís strictly prohibited and
I asked them to leave. Ranger
This is the ranger team. This team is especially for the Hanifar Area.
Actually, first of all I didnít have any idea what is a ranger because it is new to
this area ñ to the Maldives and this is the first place in Maldives which is protected
and monitored. But, later I got to know each and everything
– the concept of this rules and regulations. So, it is really fascinating to me this work. Narrator
Key to making the biosphere and protected areas work is ensuring that local people also
gain direct benefits. The income generated through the park entrance
fee is being channelled to the newly established Baa Atoll Conservation Fund and local groups
will be able to apply for grants to do preservation, livelihoods or awareness activities. Sagmth
I feel the park is a very good idea. Because it is protected there will be more species
in that area and tourists will come. Narrator
Saamat is a single mother of two and disabled in an accident, her main income is fishing.
She is hopeful that the new fund will spark more livelihood opportunities for people on
the island. She has started thinking about how her passion
for cooking might be turned into a business selling snacks to visitors and involving a
group of local women. Naeem
My dream is to see that the system works as a fully functional biosphere reserve and the
local people who are living there start getting direct benefits from the biosphere reserve,
thatís my dream and I am hoping that many other biosphere reserves and marine parks
will be established in the Maldives elsewhere wherein the benefits of those reserves or
parks will actually be given to the locals. Narrator
Many Australia Awards Alumnus like Naeem are using the knowledge and connections they gained
in Australia to make a difference back home. With rangers and other trained staff now on
the ground in Baa Atoll, the Conservation Fund up and running and stakeholders rallying
behind the effort, Naeemís dream is well on the way to becoming a reality.