Situating roughly 58 kilometers west of Maldives capital Male' City, in the central atoll of Alif Alif lies the beautiful island of Rasdhoo. A small slip of locally inhabited island that is home to a population not exceeding 1,500 according to the most recent consensus.
Ideally, this is also the first inhabited island one would pass by in Alif Alif atoll if they are traveling west of Male' atoll, and lies near Kuramathi Island Resort which is regarded as one of the largest tourist properties in the Maldives, employing over 800 industry professionals.
When I worked at Kuramathi Island Resort back in 2012, I would frequently visit the island of Rasdhoo for necessary shopping and banking trips. This was a period when the island had a mere handful of guesthouses cropped up while there were perhaps one or two restaurant outlets opened.
Never in my wildest thoughts ever comprehend an island such as Rasdhoo to undergo such a significant transformation in these past few years, which became apparent during my latest trip.
Where once only a handful of guesthouses provided lodging to occasional backpackers, now stands over 20 different guesthouses of different shapes and sizes; which is stated without much exaggeration. Back in 2012, there was only one option for us to grab a bite when it came to dining at a restaurant, but today the island has several such outlets catering to the needs of both locals as well as backpacking tourists.
I vaguely remember some vibrant souvenir shops nearly a decade ago when visiting the island was a weekly thing for me, but during my recent I observed that most of these places have long since shut down.
But my attention was not primarily focused towards on the vast economic leap the island made in the past nine years, but rather at the environmental degradation it had suffered during the same period.
There was a time when children played jovially along a lengthy and wide beach at the south and west end of the island, which had all but eroded away over the years. A local guide had affirmed that it was primarily due to irredeemable damage done on the surrounding house reef of Rasdhoo either by dumping wastage or by blasting the corals for various purposes. This in turn sped up the erosion process since the natural barrier between strong waves and the shore slowly depleted away.
I remember running frantically across a lengthily stretched beach at the west end of the island that was home to beautiful white crabs during the night time. I decided to visit the same location to revisit an old nostalgia but to my chagrin I discovered that the west end had since been eroded away completely while what was left of it now is mostly used up by locals to strap in their vessels ashore for maintenance and repairing.
The thick "jungle" through which I ran along with my old resort buddies, lay around the northwest point of the island and I wanted to once again trek through that area, hoping to reminisce old and fond memories. But I was met with disappointment when I discovered that much of the trees had since been chopped down to make way for homes and guesthouse properties.
There was a neat clearing just outside of the said jungle, which paved path to the beach on the northwest end; I remember that the ground came to a halt by the beach line, forming a small "cliff" of sorts which descended towards a shoreline filled with rocks and pebbles. That is no longer a sight one can observe due to extensive erosion.
I inquired from the friendly local who moonlighted as our guide whenever he was free from his official responsibilities of being a public-sector employee, about the extensive damage to the environment in Rasdhoo.
His recollection of the past nine years came like a melancholic tale of angst and loss both in terms of the nature's beauty as well as the loss of its appeal – which the local guide attributed towards either public unawareness or lack of responsible initiatives towards environmental sustainability.
Be that as it may, but the tale of Rasdhoo is that of a bittersweet one. Where one on end, the island had progressed in grandeur while on the other end, it regressed alarmingly.