Autumn 2016

The inhabitants of numerous small island developing states (SIDS) are almost up to their necks in water – figuratively speaking, and if the somber predictions about the rise in sea levels become reality, that will in several decades also literally be the case. In a number of places geosynthetics have already been deployed for protection.

These SIDS include the Maldives and the islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The inhabitants of islands in the Caribbean are seeing parts of their coastlines slowly disappear and their fish stocks dwindling. 

3 disappearing islands gan mark hodson
The sea level in the Caribbean is expected to rise by at least one, and possibly six, metres between now and 2100 (photo by Mark Hodson)

Beaches that are ravaged by storms and strong swell need protection against erosion. This applies particularly when they form the outer coastline of islands in a natural and vulnerable area, such as the Maldives. The Maldives are also the lowest-lying country in the world: over eighty per cent of its coral islands are less than one metre above sea level. Rising sea levels thus form a real threat. 

3 disappearing islands gan geotube
Along the western coast of Gan sand-coloured units of TenCate Geotube® have been installed to protect and raise the beaches

Along the western coast of Gan (Addu Atoll) sand-coloured units of TenCate Geotube® have already been installed to protect the runways at Gan International Airport. At a number of beaches on the Ari Atoll TenCate Geobag® has been used for erosion protection. Both solutions were selected because the tubular and bag-shaped UV-resistant containers can easily be filled with locally available sand and then sealed. Using rocks or other materials would have incurred high transport costs. 

disappearing islands shoreline
Graphic of the shoreline and beach of a SIDS

Aruba and Curaçao, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, are also experiencing a serious threat from the rise in sea levels. According to Mike Eman, Prime Minister of Aruba and Chair of SIDS, fifty-two of the islands that are members of the group are directly threatened. ‘For some that is very acute and even life threatening’, said the Prime Minister. ‘In Aruba it is the coastal area in particular that is involved, where we have eight thousand hotel rooms. These hotels are on a coastline that protrudes just one metre above the sea. Together they form eighty per cent of our economy.’

disappearing islands shoreline stadia
Graphic of the shoreline and beach of a SIDS with and without the use of  TenCate Geotube®

While the rise in the sea level around Aruba is a threat for the economy, on other islands, Eman believes, it is a matter of life or death. ‘On some Pacific islands it is predicted that in just the next ten years the sea will rise above the level of the land. That is why their inhabitants are talking about moving to other countries. It’s that bad.’ His distress call links up with reports prepared by the UNDP. This UN development aid organisation even expects the number of climate refugees to grow.
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