The Growing Island Project tries to prevent islands from flooding

Signal of change / The Growing Island Project tries to prevent islands from flooding

By Carolina Altenburger / 29 May 2019

Researchers from the MIT Self-Assembly Lab in collaboration with Invena, an organisation from the Maldives, are trialling submersible structures to promote growth of beaches and islands.

The large sand-filled bladders are made of canvas and biodegradable materials. They form 3x3 meters long, X-shaped walls that use natural forces such as waves, wind and pressure to promote the slow build up of sandbanks over time that support the existing coasts.

The objects were placed close to the Maldivian coast in February this year, their development will be observed throughout the year via satellite imagery and drone footage.

So what?

The increasing global temperatures lead to the rise of sea levels. Scientists expect a rise up to 60 cm by 2100. This poses major threats to islands and coastal communities. 
So far there have been several attempts to prevent islands from being flooded, such as building barriers or taking sand from the deep ocean and placing it onto the beaches.

The current options are far from ideal, they hurt marine life and are extremely energy intensive. “The force of nature is not going to go away, and it will always erode.” explains the co-director of the Self-Assembly lab Skylar Tibbits. The difference between the methods used so far and the new “Growing Island project” is the use of natural forces.

Sandbanks several meters long and up to 2 meters high are naturally formed over months, the new technique tries to use these processes to promote the build-up in strategic locations. The artificially-built sandbanks could be a huge step to prevent major catastrophes for coastal communities and islands.

But will this be a sustainable method? Shouldn’t we focus more on stopping the increase of the world’s temperature to prevent any further damages in the long run?

Will technological remedies lead to stagnation in the effort to reduce the world's temperature?


What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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