The Maldives consists of 1,192 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls, along the north-south direction, spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 sq. mi), making this one of the world’s most dispersed countries. It lies between latitudes 1°S and 8°N, and longitudes 72°and 74°E. The atolls are composed of live coral reefs and sand bars, situated atop submarine ridge 960 kilometers (600 mi) long that rises abruptly from the depths of the Indian Ocean and runs north to south.
Only near the southern end of this natural coral barricade do two open passages permit safe ship navigation from one side of the Indian Ocean to the other through the territorial waters of Maldives. For administrative purposes, the Maldivian government organized these atolls into twenty-one administrative divisions. The largest island of Maldives is Gan, which belongs to Laamu Atoll or Hahdhummathi Maldives. In Addu Atoll the westernmost islands are connected by roads over the reef (collectively called Link Road) and the total length of the road is 14 km (9 mi).
Maldives is the lowest country in the world, with maximum and average natural ground levels of only 2.4 meters (7ft 10 in) and 1.5 meters (4ft 11 in) above sea level, respectively. In areas where construction exists, however, this has been increased to several meters. More than 80 per cent of the country’s land is composed of coral islands which rise less than one meter above sea level. As a result, the Maldives are at high risk of being submerged due to rising sea levels. The UN’s environmental panel has warned that, at current rates, sea level rise would be high enough to make the Maldives uninhabitable by 2100.