Atolls of Maldives

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I have used source [6] to get 2014 census data. Source [6] was unsatisfactory in many ways. The atoll populations usually don't add up to the totals given, because there are Resort and Industrial islands that are not part of any atoll. The report has many redundant tables, sometimes with contradictory information. The confusing variant atoll names add to the problem of interpretation.

President Mohamed Nasheed, who was inaugurated on 2008-11-11, ran on a decentralization program based on the creation of seven provinces, plus one capital district. Parliament passed a decentralization bill that barred the formation of those provinces (sources [4], [5]). President Nasheed agreed to ratify the bill as passed. However, the president had already opened some provincial offices and appointed some ministers for the provinces in 2009, and he has "said that the provinces would be developed, with or without a decentralisation law" (source [7]). On 2011-03-01, the cabinet agreed on an administrative structure and appointed heads of provinces (source [9]). I take that as the date of establishment of the provinces. However, source [10] says that on 2012-04-24, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan closed the provincial offices and transferred their functions to the local councils. I conclude that the atolls are now once again the primary subdivisions.

ISO 3166-2 Newsletter II-3 is dated 2011-12-15. Relative to the previous version, it splits Alif (formerly MV-02) into Alifu Alifu and Alifu Dhaalu, and gives them separate codes. It also lists the seven new provinces and assigns codes to them. It disagrees with me on the identification of South Central and Upper South provinces with atolls. For my reasoning, see the Wikipedia discussion page .

Update 5 to Geopolitical Entities and Codes, the successor to FIPS PUB 10-4, was issued on 2011-08-31. It has codes for the new provinces.

Note: There is some disagreement on one point: is South Central province north or south of Upper South province? One of them consists of Thaa and Laamu atolls, and the other, farther south, is Gaaf Alif and Gaaf Dhaalu. There are two official-looking maps that have conflicting labels. According to this map  (upper left), the South Central label goes on Thaa and Laamu; according to another map , South Central province contains the Gaafs. My further investigations have convinced me that the first map is correct. Unfortunately, a lot of secondary online sources, including Wikipedia (source [3]), have drawn their information from the second map. After a discussion, the Wikipedia article has now been fixed.

Country overview: 

Short nameMALDIVES
ISO codeMV
Time zone+5


The Maldive Islands were a British protectorate and a dependency of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) until 1948. Then the territory was separated from Ceylon and administered directly by Britain. It became independent on 1965-07-26.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Maldiverne
  2. Dhivehi: Dhivehi Raajjeyge Jumhooriyyaa (formal)
  3. Dutch: Maldiven, Republiek Maldiven (formal)
  4. English: Republic of the Maldives (formal)
  5. Finnish: Malediivit
  6. French: Maldives fp
  7. German: Malediven fp
  8. Icelandic: Maldíveyjar
  9. Italian: Maldive, Repubblica f delle Maldive fp (formal)
  10. Norwegian: Maldivene, Republikken Maldivene (formal) (Bokmål), Maldivane, Republikken Maldivane (formal) (Nynorsk)
  11. Portuguese: Maldivas, República f das Maldivas fp (formal)
  12. Russian: Мальдивская Республика (formal), Мальдивы
  13. Spanish: Maldivas, República f de Maldivas fp (formal)
  14. Swedish: Maldiverna
  15. Turkish: Maldivler Cumhuriyeti (formal), Maldiv Adaları

Origin of name: 

Arabic al-Mahal: palace + Sanskrit dvipa: island

Primary subdivisions: 

Maldives is divided into nineteen atolls and two cities.

Aliff AliffMV.AA02MV3028AA095,905Rasdhoo
Aliff DaaluMV.AD0029ADh008,145Mahibadhoo
Gaafu AliffMV.GA27MV3436GA168,334Villingili
Gaafu DaaluMV.GD28MV3537GDh1711,587Thinadhoo
Haa AliffMV.HA07MV3620HA0112,939Dhidhdhoo
Haa DaaluMV.HD23MV3721HDh0218,515Kulhudhuffushi
21 divisions344,023
  • Atoll: Except for Addu and Male, which are cities.
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Codes from ISO 3166-2.
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • Code: Codes used in census reports by the Ministry of Planning
    and Local Development (new codes used in 2000).
  • Cens: Letter codes used in census report (source [6]).
  • PC: Post Code prefix (see below).
  • Population: 2014-09-20 census.

Postal codes: 

Maldives Post (source [2]) introduced a new system of five-digit postal codes on 2002-09-09. The atoll of a location can be deduced from its first two digits, or just the first one in the Male postal area. Before then, codes for census statistical areas were used. They had the form nn-nn, where each 'n' is a digit.

Territorial extent: 

The atolls in the Maldives form the middle link in a chain between British Indian Ocean Territory to the south and Lakshadweep union territory, India, to the north. They are separated from Lakshadweep by the Eight Degree Channel, at about eight degrees North latitude, and from B.I.O.T. by a broader channel centered at about three degrees South.

The UN LOCODE page  for Maldives lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

The names of most of the atolls are simply the names of letters of the Thaana alphabet. Thaana  is used to write Dhivehi, the language of the Maldives, and is related to both the Arabic and Devanagari alphabets. Male comes from Arabic al-Mahal: palace.

According to anthropologist J.S. Gardiner, writing in 1901, atolu was the Dhivehi word for province. Since most of the provinces of the Maldives coincided with atolls even then, Europeans borrowed the word from Dhivehi and applied it to the concept of a ring of islands. (Source [6])

Change history: 

  1. ~1987: Male city split from Kaafu atoll.
  2. ~1998: Aliff atoll (MV.AL) split into Aliff Aliff and Aliff Daalu.
  3. 2010-10-19: Name and status of Seenu atoll changed to Addu city. The atolls at that time were as follows:
  4. 2011-03-01: A new structure of provinces was erected above the atolls, becoming the new primary divisions (table below).
  5. 2012-04-24: Provinces abolished, restoring the atolls as before.
CentralMV.CECEMV5113,442KudahuvadhooDaalu, Faafu, Meemu
NorthMV.NRNOMV5443,539FelivaruBaa, Laviyani, Noonu, Raa
North CentralMV.NCNCMV5331,202MaafushiAliff Aliff, Aliff Daalu, Kaafu, Waavu
SouthMV.SOSUMV4825,662HithadhooNaviyani, Addu
South CentralMV.SCSCMV5220,483GanLaamu, Thaa
Upper NorthMV.UNUNMV5041,672KulhudhuffushiHaa Aliff, Haa Daalu, Shaviyani
Upper SouthMV.USUSMV4919,275ThinadhooGaafu Aliff, Gaafu Daalu
8 divisions298,968
  • Province: Except for Malé, which is a city.
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • FIPS: Codes from Geopolitical Entities and Codes.
  • Population: 2006-03-28 census.
  • Former: Subdivisions as of before the reorganization.

Other names of subdivisions: 

Note: (Admiralty) refers to atoll names on the British Admiralty charts. Aliff may be transcribed instead as Alif or Alifu; Daalu may be Dhaal or Dhaalu, Gaafu may be Gaaf, and so on. Names ending in "North" or "South" may equally well appear inverted (e.g. North Male instead of Male North). Names may be followed by "Atoll". Male is often written with an acute accent or apostrophe (Malé, Male').


  1. Aliff: Ari and Rasdu (Admiralty); Ari (variant)
  2. Aliff Aliff: Alif Uthuru, Ari Atholhu Uthuruburi, Ari Atoll Uthuru Gofi, Ari North (variant)
  3. Aliff Daalu: Alif Dhekunu, Ari Atholhu Dhekunuburi, Ari Atoll Dhekunu Gofi, Ari South (variant)
  4. Baa: Malosmadulu South (Admiralty); Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi, Maalhosmadulu South (variant)
  5. Daalu: Nilandu South (Admiralty); Nilandhe Atholhu Dhekunuburi, Nilandhe South (variant)
  6. Faafu: Nilandu North (Admiralty); Faaf, Faafa, Nilandhe Atholhu Uthuruburi, Nilandhe North (variant)
  7. Gaafu Aliff: Suvadiva North (Admiralty); Huvadhoo North, Huvadu North, North Huvadhu (variant)
  8. Gaafu Daalu: Suvadiva South (Admiralty); Huvadhoo South, Huvadu South, South Huvadhu (variant)
  9. Haa Aliff: Tiladummati North (Admiralty); Ihavandhippolhu, Ihavandiffulu, Thiladhunmathee Uthuruburi, Thiladhunmathi North (variant)
  10. Haa Daalu: Tiladummati South (Admiralty); Thiladhunmathee Dhekunuburi, Thiladhunmathi South (variant)
  11. Kaafu: North and South Male (Admiralty); Male (variant)
  12. Laamu: Haddummati (Admiralty); Hadhdhummathi, Hadhdhunmathee, Hadhunmathi (variant)
  13. Laviyani: Fadiffolu (Admiralty); Faadhippolhu, Lhaviyani (variant)
  14. Meemu: Mulaku (Admiralty); Miim, Mulakatholhu (variant)
  15. Naviyani: Fua Mulaku (Admiralty); Foahmulah, Foammulah, Fuahmulah, Fuvahmulah, Gnaviyani, Gnyaviyalu (variant)
  16. Noonu: Miladummadulu South (Admiralty); Miladhunmadulu Dhekunuburi, Miladhunmadulu South, Nuun (variant)
  17. Raa: Malosmadulu North (Admiralty); Maalhosmadulu North, Maalhosmadulu Uthuruburi (variant)
  18. Seenu: Addu (Admiralty); Addoo, Siin (variant)
  19. Shaviyani: Miladummadulu North (Admiralty); Miladhunmadulu North, Miladhunmadulu Uthuruburi, Shaviyan (variant)
  20. Thaa: Kolumadulu (Admiralty); Kolhumadulu (variant)
  21. Waavu: Felidu (Admiralty); Felidhe, Felidhu, Vaavu (variant)


  1. Capital: Male (variant)
  2. Central: Medhu (variant)
  3. North Central: Medhu-Uthuru (variant)
  4. North: Uthuru (variant)
  5. South Central: Medhu-Dhekunu (variant)
  6. South: Dhekunu (variant)
  7. Upper North: Mathi-Uthuru (variant)
  8. Upper South: Mathi-Dhekunu (variant)

Population history:

Aliff Aliff6,2235,2605,5185,77619,319
Aliff Daalu6,6957,8038,3795,905
Gaafu Aliff4,9788,1218,2498,2624,119
Gaafu Daalu7,72012,03111,88611,0138,334
Haa Aliff8,60313,67614,16113,49511,587
Haa Daalu9,92415,36516,95616,23712,939


Note: the 1978 census (source [11]) shows Aliff Aliff and Aliff Daalu combined as Alifu atoll. It shows Faafu divided into two atolls, Faafu (I) with 2,012 residents and Faafu (II) with 4,162. Kaafu atoll was probably included under Male at that time.


  1. [1] Strengthening Local Governance in Maldives , Presidents Office & Ministry of Home Affairs. March, 2009 (retrieved 2009-05-14).
  2. [2] Maldives Post  (retrieved from on 2003-12-14).
  3. [3] Administrative divisions of the Maldives  (Wikipedia article, retrieved 2009-05-12).
  4. [4] "Maldives In Brief: Decentralization bill passed barring seven provinces ", Asian Tribune (dated 2010-05-02, retrieved 2010-10-26).
  5. [5] Press Release, The President's Office, Republic of Maldives (dated 2010-05-07, retrieved from,5,4250 on 2010-10-26, dead link).
  6. [6] American Anthropologist , New Series, Vol. 3, No. 3: July-Sept. 1901. p. 570.
  7. [7] Press Release, The President's Office, Republic of Maldives (dated 2009-09-04, retrieved from,5,1839 on 2010-10-26, dead link).
  8. [8] Department of National Planning  (retrieved 2009-02-22).
  9. [9] "Cabinet finalises administrative structure of National Offices ", article in Haveeru Online (dated 2011-03-02, retrieved 2011-03-26).
  10. [10] "President abolishes National Offices and National Office Units ", article in Haveeru Online (dated 2012-04-24, retrieved 2013-12-03).
  11. [11] 1979 Demographic Yearbook , 31st Ed. Statistical Office, United Nations, New York, 1980 (retrieved 2011-12-28).
  12. [6] Population & Housing Census 2014 . National Bureau of Statistics (retrieved 2011-12-28).
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