Administrative divisions of the Maldives

Administrative divisions of the Maldives

Geographically, the Maldives are formed by a number of natural atolls plus a few islands and isolated reefs which form a pattern from North to South. For administrative purposes, the Country has been organized into twenty one administrative divisions (20 administrative "atolls" and Male' city).

Use of the word "Atoll"

Since the administrative divisions of Maldives are called 'Atolls' ("atholu"), but are not always consisting of an atoll proper, they should not be confused with the natural Atolls of the Maldives. Even though sometimes the natural atoll overlaps with the administrative division, like in Lhaviyani-Faaadhippolhu, there are many inconsistencies that can be puzzling, like a slice of an atoll, or even a single island, being referred to as "Atoll" instead of 'province' or 'district'.

Codes and Names of the Administrative Divisions

The introduction of code-letter names for the Maldive Atolls has been a source of much puzzlement and misunderstandings, especially among foreigners. Many people have come to think that the code-letter of the administrative atoll is its new name and that it has replaced its geographical name. Under such circumstances it is hard to know which is the correct name to use.

Every administrative division of the Maldives has the following:

#A name, for example Thiladhunmati Uthuruburi (meaning Thiladhunmathi North).
#A Maldivian code letter, for example: Haa Alifu. When there are two letters, the second stands either for "North" (Alifu) or for "South" (Dhaalu).
#A Latin code letter, for example: (A).

The first corresponds to the geographical Maldivian name of the Atoll. The second is a code adopted for convenience. It began in order to facilitate radio communication between the atolls and the central administration. As there are certain islands in different atolls that have the same name, for administrative purposes this code is quoted before the name of the island, for example: Baa Funadhoo, Kaafu Funadhoo, Gaafu-Alifu Funadhoo. Since most Atolls have very long geographical names it is also used whenever the name of the atoll has to be quoted short, for example in the atoll website names. This code denomination has been very much abused by foreigners and tourists who didn't understand the proper use of these names and have often totally ignored the Maldivian true names in publications for tourists. Maldivians may use the letter code name in colloquial conversation, but in serious geographic, historical or cultural writings, the true geographical name always takes precedence.

The Latin code letter is normally used in Boat registration plates. The letter stands for the atoll and the number for the island.

Each atoll is administered by an Atoll Chief (Atholhu Veriyaa) appointed by the President (Maumoon Abdul Gayoom). Atoll chiefs administer as directed by the president. The Ministry of Atoll Administration and its Northern and Southern Regional Offices, Atoll Offices and Island Offices are collectively responsible to the President for Atolls Administration. The administrative head of each island is the Island Chief (Katheeb), appointed by the President. The Island Chief's immediate superior is the Atoll Chief.

Traditionally, Maldivians call the atolls ending in '-madulhu' or '-mathi' by their name without adding the word 'Atoll' at the end. For example, it is correct to write simply Kolhumadulhu, without adding the word 'Atholhu' or 'Atoll'. This is also the case in the atoll known as Faadhippolhu.


*Muhammadu Ibrahim Lutfee. "Divehiraajjege Jōgrafīge Vanavaru". G.Sōsanī. Malé 1999.
*Hasan A. Maniku. "The Islands of Maldives". Novelty. Male 1983.
*Hasan A. Maniku. "Changes in the Topography of the Maldives". Novelty. Male 1990.

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