Marine Festival in North Ari Atoll Attracts Community Support for Environment

U.S. Ambassador Michele J. Sison talks to local children during her welcome to Mathiveri island. According to North Ari Atoll Co
U.S. Ambassador Michele J. Sison talks to local children during her welcome to Mathiveri island. According to North Ari Atoll Council members, Ambassador Sison is the first foreign dignitary to have visited the island.

For Immediate Release

Monday, September 22, 2014
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Public Affairs Section

U.S. Ambassador to Maldives Michele J. Sison joined Mohammed Ibrahim, Maldivian State Minister for Environment and Energy, and Zaha Waheed, State Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture, and hundreds of North Ari Atoll environment and beach lovers to celebrate the Marine Festival “Moodhu Maa-Kan’du Fest 2014” on September 20 in North Ari Atoll, Mathiveri Island. The event raised awareness about climate change challenges and provided hands-on training to learn about protecting marine life.

Organized by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture as well as the North Ari Atoll Council, the day-long festival also provided local residents with an opportunity to voice their concerns regarding environmental issues in their communities.

“You are all aware of the overwhelming urgency to address climate change adaptation in Maldives,” said Ambassador Sison. “That is why it is crucial for all the people of Maldives to participate when deciding how to protect your natural resources.”

The festival is part of REGENERATE (Reefs Generate Environmental and Economic Resiliency for Atoll Ecosystems), a program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to better protect and manage marine systems, especially the coral reef life affected by climate change and human activities.

“Maldives attaches great importance to the protection and preservation of coral reefs. We continue to collaborate with partners, both local and international,” said Mohamed Ibrahim, State Minister for Environment and Energy. “However, we hold to creed that community participation and ownership is the key to the success of these efforts.”

Echoing that theme, an important part of REGENERATE is encouraging local communities to protect their own marine neighborhoods. As such, the festival welcomed visitors through activities such as snorkeling and swimming lessons, a beach clean-up competition, an invention competition using recyclables, and even instructor-guided scuba diving lessons.

“The Maldives territory is over 99 percent water and the archipelago’s well-being depends directly on healthy marine and coastal environments,” said Dr. Ameer Abdulla, REGENERATE Program Manager and Senior Advisor to the IUCN Global Marine Program. “This festival is a first step in motivating and forming the next generation of Maldivian marine scientists and managers.”

USAID is the development agency of the U.S. Government and has provided development and humanitarian assistance to developing countries worldwide for over 50 years. In Maldives, USAID has provided over $12 million through its global climate change program since 2001.