Maldivian authorities counter the idea that this is basically a tropical rubbish dump, albeit rather vaguely. “All measures to minimise the impact of construction on the environment are monitored by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) of the Maldives,” Ahmed told me.
While Hulhumalé is being fashioned primarily to improve the lives of Maldivians, its City of Hope also aims to be a beacon for a new cohort of tourists interested in more than just lying in a beachside resort bubble. A 2018 World Finance report, for example, highlights the potential for medical and sports tourism tied into upcoming projects such as the Maldives’ first multi-specialist hospital, water theme park and yacht marina.
Philpot also hopes the dreams driving Hulhumalé will extend to a greater appreciation of their surroundings by the next generation of Maldivians. “I taught coral ecology classes to Maldivian children between [the ages of] 14 and 17 – and more than half my class had never put their faces in the water with a snorkel on,” she said. “Their amazement at what they saw was so exciting – but also sad, that they lived so close to the sea but never got the opportunity to experience being underwater. Perhaps with more direct education aimed at marine biology there would be more interest in preserving and protecting the marine ecosystem amongst the young.”
Rather than just building a City of Hope, in other words, the people of the Maldives are taking an island-building path into the future that could make the Maldives a Nation of Hope.
The World of Tomorrow is a BBC Travel series that visits ingenious communities around the world that are adapting to environmental change or who are finding new ways to live sustainably.
Join more than three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter called “The Essential List”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.