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The Maldives has long been the picture-perfect paradise getaway, and even more so during the pandemic. Last year saw tourism return to almost pre-pandemic levels with the arrival of 1.3 million travellers, as compared to 1.7 million visitors in 2019. And now, the world’s lowest-lying nation might just have a stable solution to the stark reality of rising sea levels. The Maldives Floating City has just been green-lit for construction: 5,000 housing units that are linked together and tethered to the floor of a 500-acre lagoon, designed to preserve and enhance its natural and cultural ecosystem.

All you need to know about Maldives Floating City

Located a 15-minute boat ride from Malé and the international airport, the project is based on an integrated tourism model, and will include hotels, houses, shops and restaurants. It will be a car-free zone, to be navigated via the canals and the natural white-sand roads–on foot or on bicycles and electric, noise-free buggies and scooters.

International travellers also have the option of obtaining a residence permit with the purchase of a house. The first floating housing block, under construction by Bison, will be transported to the lagoon and opened for public viewing in August, to enable people to gauge the look and feel of the homes. The modular city construction is slated for January 2023 and will take about five years to complete.

The Maldives Floating City is a private-public partnership between Dutch Docklands and the island government. Dutch Docklands’ founders are architect Koen Olthuis and developer Paul van de Camp and the project relies on floating technology from the Netherlands, which has a centuries-old engagement in designing architecture to withstand floods.

Are floating cities climate-proof?

The design by architect firm Waterstudio was a finalist for the Best Futura Project at the 2022 MIPIM Awards, nicknamed the Asian Oscars for global development. Many factors shaped the design and urban planning, from the projection of sea-rise levels over a 100-year period to the supply and waste management, surplus energy in the smart grid, and the shadows that its large structure would throw on the seabed that might hinder marine life. The city’s grid is “a nature-based structure of roads and water canals resembling the beautiful and efficient way in which real brain coral is organised,” states the project website, explaining that the city will also stimulate coral growth with artificial coral banks attached to its underside, which will in turn provide a natural wave-reduction breaker.

With the threat of climate change, there is a rising interest in floating architecture as a sustainable alternative. While we have traditional examples such as the indigenously created reed islands on Lake Titicaca and Manipur’s manmade aquaculture ponds shaped from floating vegetation, recent innovations include Amsterdam’s floating neighbourhood of Waterbuurt, and floating hotels like Copenhagen’s Hotel CPH Living and France’s Off Paris Seine. If all goes to plan, the world will see its first floating city in 2027.

Source : Condé Nast Traveller