The People’s Atoll – Story of the First Biosphere Reserve of the Maldives
As he gazes out over the crystal blue water these days, Ahmed Fareesh reflects back to times long ago. A time of young dreams that yearned to journey across the expanse of the sea that stretched infinitely before him. A time of fantasies that reached beyond the waves to the waters where the dolphins played.
He doggedly pursued that passion. It led him to study fisheries science at school, and that in turn would lead him to become the Maldives’ first sea ranger.
Like some coveted jobs, this one too involved good timing and a dash of luck. In 2004, the Atoll Ecosystem Conservation (AEC) project was initiated to try to conserve the environment in and around the Baa Atoll, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The ultimate aim was that the project would become a model of conservation for all atolls in the Maldives.
For Fareesh it was a case of being in the right place at the right time. The project hired him to patrol and monitor the waters all around the Baa Atoll — declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in June 2011, the first in the Maldives. While Fareesh now lives his dream, the job isn’t easy.