Life can be cramped when you live on a remote cluster of tiny coral islands in the Indian Ocean, so the Maldives has plumped for a novel if seemingly extreme solution -- build a new island from scratch.
Emerging from the sea where a turquoise lagoon used to sit, man-made Hulhumale is springing to life as an overflow to the congested capital, Male, a short boat ride away.
Around 1,500 people now live in a first cluster of housing erected on the 188-hectare (465-acre) island, a giant building site to which the government hopes around 15 percent of the country's 300,000 mostly Sunni Muslim inhabitants will opt to migrate over the next 15 years.
Hulhumale is already the size of Male island, and will more than double in area once a second phase of land reclamation due to begin over the next decade is complete.
"The reason for the whole project is because of the land shortage in Male," said Mohamed Shahid of the Hulhumale Development Unit, who is overseeing the project. "We've taken a shallow lagoon and created a totally new piece of land."
"Within the next 5-10 years we will have more than 30,000 people living here, and by 2020, our target is to have 50,000 people living in this land area," he added.
By the time the project is finished, 40 years from now, the new island will be able to house up to 153,000 people, more than 50 percent of the Maldives' current population.
The vast, flat, barren rectangle is a far cry from the rest of the Maldives' nearly 1,200 tiny palm-fringed islands, most of them a few hundred meters across at most.
The 200 inhabited islands are home on average to just a few hundred people or house luxury tourist resorts which offer some of South Asia's most expensive holiday accommodation.
The Maldivians have doubled the surface area of Male island using land reclamation techniques, but have now reached a natural limit. Male has been built out to the edge of the surrounding reef, beyond which the ocean floor drops away steeply.
Male, which is 2 km (1.25 miles) long and 800 meters (half a mile) wide and home to 75,000 people, is bursting at the seams. The streets of white-washed houses are heavily built up, living conditions often cramped and areas of communal open space sparse.
Hulhumale, joined to a nearby island that houses the Maldives' international airport by a narrow causeway, offers the chance literally to start from scratch.
A new beginning
A grid of brand new roads has already been laid out like a mesh of airport runways, dividing a wasteland formed from bleached, dead coral and sand churned up from the lagoon floor into plots for eventual construction.
There is not much in the way of recreation or nightlife, and the only way to reach Male is by ferry or speedboat, yet new residents are happy to get away from traffic and crowds.
"I have lived here for six months. It's very pretty, there is fresh air and very few people," said 15-year-old Viyaam Ali, who moved to Hulhumale from the small southern island of Thinadhoo.
"It's just like a village. I like it very much," he added, strolling to one of just a handful of shops now open on the island. His father is one of Hulhumale's first taxi drivers.
A few palm trees have been transplanted from elsewhere in the archipelago, which is dotted across 500 miles of sea off the toe of India and is a favorite honeymoon destination boasting some of the world's best scuba-diving.
"The atmosphere is very good, but the transport is very difficult," said 23-year-old travel agent Aminath Maastha as she stepped off the ferry from Male.
"If I had a choice between Male and here, I would obviously choose here," she added, looking out over the newborn island.
The project began in 1997 and is being completed in stages because costs run into hundreds of millions of dollars. It has cost $63 million so far for reclamation and buildings.
"In the second phase, we will incorporate an existing island as well, which is currently operating as a prominent resort," Shahid said. "They have been given another island as compensation so within the next 5-10 years we will take up that island as well when we expand this landmass."
Male residents are being given priority for land and home purchases, and President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's government is offering real estate at a 40 percent discount to prices in the capital as an incentive.
Gayoom has spent much of his 26 years in power warning of the dangers that global warming, erosion and shifting weather patterns pose to low-lying island nations like his own. Hulhumale is being built 2 meters above sea level -- a meter higher than Male -- as a safeguard.
"We still face the threat of sea level rise," Gayoom told Reuters in an interview. "There is encroachment of the sea on many islands, there is erosion of our beaches."
"We think (2.0 meters) is sufficient for the time being. Of course we can't foresee 50-60 years from now," he added. "For the foreseeable future it will be enough."