Sinking nations could survive with artificial island technology

The Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, is at places only five to eight feet above sea level, and the islands are gradually sinking. After considering many proposals, the country's government has begun a joint venture with a Dutch company to create artificial floating islands to house the nation — and attract tourism.

Dutch Docklands International is the company now working building the Maldives a new home. The company is not in uncharted waters; it has built floating island prisons and other structures before. This, however, will be the world's largest artificial islands and essentially a "floating nation," if the company's vision is realized.

The Dutch company plans to use a tested technique of building the islands from slabs of concrete and polystyrene foam. They will build many smaller islands rather than one large one, and anchor the structures to the sea floor via telescoping mooring piles. This solves a few problems: 1) it makes the islands more stable to extreme ocean conditions, 2) disrupts less space on the sea floor than building with rock or sand and 3) with smaller islands, there will be less shadows that disrupt marine life.

What's interesting is that the plan begins with the creation of tourist attractions and high-end resident housing. So far the company promised an island for 200 luxury residences and a floating golf course. Other plans include a floating hotel and convention center (pictured above), as well as four ringed islands for additional villas alongside more affordable housing for the some 390,000 citizens.

With sea levels rising all over the globe, this first joint venture could be a road map for future developing nations that are also at risk. Not only is this project being done with a sense of the ecology of the area in mind, it also has added features that will attract tourists and build jobs. While the success of this idealistic project remains to be seen (as no end date has been announced), it does seem like a better attempt at keeping a nation alive, instead of disbanding the population and sending them elsewhere.

Dutch Docklands International, via PopSci, io9

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