Development and the Sacred: An Account of Reef Resource Management in the Maldives

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Mizna Mohamed
Nicole Gombay
John Pirker


While the Maldives is heavily dependent on its reef environments, rapid economic development is creating adverse impacts on these marine ecosystems. In an effort to explore alternative forms of resource management, this paper presents sacred beliefs that have guided the way traditional Maldivian communities have used, managed and governed their reef resources. The findings of this qualitative study, conducted in seven island communities of the Maldives, show that beliefs such as the Islamic concept of Rizq, humans as stewards of the earth and sentient non-human beings, drove traditional resource use and management practices. “Progress” in a globalised world has meant that nature has become part of the secular. We argue that there is a need to re-integrate the sacred into our resource management as this can potentially contribute to ongoing environmental conservation efforts.

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