CASE STUDY: AA.THODDU; MALDIVES
DATE: 14.02.10 – 15.02.10
OBSERVATION AND REFLECTION
Students of DJ2010, made History in the Faculty of Arts by making a visit to an Atoll, within the first two weeks of the official commencement of the Diploma Program.
Tour began late in the Afternoon, right after a normal college session.
The team of 20 students was accompanied by Environment, History & Dhivehi Lecturer.
The main purpose of the trip was to get a broader knowledge and personally experience the current state of the Historic relic Dargaba, and explore the unique Geography of the one & only Atoll island in the country; Thoddu!
Here are some of the findings, Mr. Abram – our Environment lecturer was of great help in compiling these findings.
Surrounding land-use (agriculture, housing development etc…)- affect Thoddu’s cultural heritage (relics)
Agriculture is happening right next to Thoddu’s historical cultural relics _ (Dargaba) . Speaking in this context, a small mounded rise in the ground prevents agriculture from directly impacting the relics to some extent. Yet the mounded rise also appears to be a part of Dargaba. Considering agriculture in the short term, a negative impact remains as not affecting. However, agriculture may compromise the relics’ long term conservation in the future, through intrusion.
Human Access track into the main site of Dargaba appears to pass directly over the relic (the mounded area – high rise area). This poses risks of degradation through erosion or degradation of the now remaining minimum section of the historic relics.
Speaking of Wilderness, it is rapidly overtaking the relic, with trees, mosses and detritus. Detritus is Disintegrated or eroded matter from the trees (www.thefreedictionary.com). Detritus contributes to their natural deterioration. Detritus fosters moist conditions, potentially assisting the erosion of Dargaba, and also increasing the topsoil build-ups and eventually burying the Dargaba. Also the root system is breaking down the relics’ compromising what is left of the original structure. In contrary, the natural vegetation is also serving as a shelter to the Dargaba to some extent, considering the case of protecting from excessive wind and water erosion, and also human impacts such as unmanaged visitation and exploitation of the place for human interest purposes.
In addition, the Garbage Mismanagement at long term could lead into taking over the relics’ territory, and the aftermaths of the waste disposal at some point cause chemical degradation of the place.
Also the Government is Trying Visitation Restrictions inorder to protect the place. This has got its limitation in drawbacks and advantages. Even though this limits the unmanaged visitations to an extent, the proper management of Dargaba could not be carried out to the best of the extents, as the country is not advanced to the point where special protection troops could monitor the place all around the clock. Also this limits from cultural tourism which could reap in benefits to the country in the near future.
Thoddu’s agricultural industry affect the area’s natural environment
a) Soil (erosion, desertification, etc…)
From the primary observations carried out in one of the most unique Atoll/Islands of the Maldives, it can be deduced that there is a significant exposure of the top soil, especially in many of the agricultural plots. This increases the susceptibility to wind and water erosion. The erosion of the natural topsoil eventually reduces the lands productivity, thus imposing a great concern in an island highly dependent of Agriculture. Studies suggest that if the issue of topsoil erosion is left unchecked, this could lead to desertification, reiterating concern over the economic future of the agriculture based Thoddu. From the observations carried throughout, it could be said that detritus was present at some points of vegetation, especially at the backyard gardens, under papaya trees. Presence of natural mulch or detritus increases the process of top soil regeneration (under right conditions top soil regenerates at a rate of 2cm/year). Detritus facilitates the fixation of nitrogen and phosphorus (macro nutrients essential for plant growth) into the soil through fungal breakdown, hence increasing productivity and the quality of the crops grown on it. It reduces weeds. A reduction weeds and presence of pests also means a decrease in the chemicals (herbicides) which have to be used on the fields. Detritus also conserves water through reducing evaporation, reducing the needs for irrigation. Besides, detritus also encourages helpful sand dwelling organisms (worm) colonization, which again helps to improve the soil composition and content.
b) Freshwater (irrigation, fresh water lens contamination, etc…)
Especially considering the public known fact Thoddu being famous for its Watermelon (watermelon requires a lot of water), an extensive irrigation network is established to irrigate the Thoddu Watermelons and other yields and crops. This is definitely to impose significant pressure on the local Fresh water lens, hence causing it to become brackish and depleted over time.
Environmental Protection Agency of the Maldives (EPA) also reports of the Fresh Water lens contamination in Thoddu, significantly by agricultural fertilizers.
Taking the issue of suggested solutions, improved rainwater capture and storage is an appropriate to some extent. Also, the EPA is currently working on investigating the possibility of establishing an extensive water recycling program, in Thoddu, to reduce to the impact the agriculture on freshwater lens. (The project is also currently carried out in S. Gan)
c) Vegetation (deforestation, invasion of weeds, etc…)
From the observations in the agriculture based island of Thoddu, it can strongly be seen that slash and burn is very common on the fields. This agricultural process strongly fixes nitrogen to the soils through ash deposition, immediately increasing productivity. Yet the long term practice of slash and burn, actually contributes to nutrient loss, death of soil dwelling organisms and also at extents leads to erosion.
Significant invasion of weed species (opportunists and multiply rapidly and in vast numbers in disturbed areas) occurs when the areas are disturbed rapidly and repeatedly, leaving the soil bare ( eg: burn or harvested). At times, weeds species get out of control and invade natural areas, out competing native species and therefore disrupting ecological processes. Weed species also frequently necessitate the use of herbicides to control them. At the current state, herbicides are causing significant risks to Thoddu Freshwater lens, the marine environment and also native plant species.
In contrast, green fertilizers (short lived plants that fix nitrogen and other nutrients to soils) could be used as a good alternative to slash and burn agriculture, hence increasing the productivity to some extent. Also this could limit the invasion of weeds in watermelon fields. In addition, mixed cropping, or plantation of different species of plants in one area could be referred as a possible alternative, as it maximizes the productivity of a single plot, hence it also decreases the clearing of natural areas and mimics the ecological structure of the natural environment.