Small islands caught between development and disaster
The atoll Mal, capital of the Maldives. It takes under two hours to walk around the island, which is almost entirely urban and paved at sea level there is virtually no natural coastline leftIlan Kelman
A short downpour in Mal, the capital of the Maldives, can flood local streets. The drainage system is effectively at sea level, and there is little room to improve the systemIlan Kelman
Rubbish burns on a more remote atoll of the Maldives, south of the capital. Its too difficult and expensive to transport rubbish off islands such as this, even for recycling. This leaves little option but to reduce waste and burn what is left, polluting the atmosphereIlan Kelman
New Providence, Bahamas a low-lying island where beaches are disappearing and the ocean encroaches onto the road. Yet hotel construction can be seen in the background, raising questions about the degree to which poor development contributes to coastline change by, for example, removing vegetationIlan Kelman
The roof on this house in Samoa was reported to have been damaged in a cyclone. Simple construction and maintenance techniques can prevent damage to housing in a disasterIlan Kelman
Living at sea level in Samoa. The practice of extending housing into the ocean may be considered an adaptation to pressures such as population density, or a maladaptation to climate change risks such as cyclones and rising seasIlan Kelman
The Seychelles is tackling coastal erosion by building a non-intrusive wall along the coastline, and by creating a coastal community park for Seychellois and touristsIlan Kelman
A coral wall in front of Tongas low-lying capital Nukualofa. The wall provides recreational space and alleviates erosion. But how long will it last under rising seas?Ilan Kelman
A sea wall in the northwest of Tongas main island, Tongatapu. The sea could one day bypass it, or undermine and wash it away, but there are few alternatives for protecting the land behindIlan Kelman
Mangroves around Tongas coastlines. They are not perfect solutions but can sometimes reduce damage from coastal erosion, tsunamis and cyclones. Mangroves are often protected and restored for this purposeIlan Kelman
A boardwalk is built through small tracts of mangroves in Paraquita Bay, British Virgin Islands, without disrupting the ecosystem. The aim is to educate islanders and tourists about the importance of mangroves and their uses, such as fishingIlan Kelman
What does vulnerability to climate change look like in SIDS, and how do they go about adapting to climate change? This image gallery offers a snapshot from islands across the Atlantic, Indian and South Pacific oceans.
The images reveal a tension that can emerge between quick fixes and long-term development. Large-scale resort developments for tourism, for example, may bring in some cash but can also damage beaches and ecosystems, leaving inland infrastructure vulnerable to waves and storms.
The challenges facing SIDS illustrate how development, disaster risk, and climate change are connected, spelling a need to find a balance between improving livelihoods and achieving sustainability.
This article is part of our Spotlight on Joint action on climate change