The Maldives (www.visitmaldives.com)
Andrew Buncombe of The Independent reports that the government of the Maldives is organizing its next cabinet meeting underwater.
"To this end, (President) Mohamed Nasheed has organized an underwater cabinet meeting and told all his ministers to get in training for the sub-aqua session. Six meters beneath the surface, the ministers will ratify a treaty calling on other countries to cut greenhouse emissions," Buncombe writes.
Notwithstanding the story's apparent humor we all know how serious the threat of rising sea levels caused by greenhouse emissions is for this tiny island nation south of India. While reading this report I was reminded of my only visit to the Maldives in 1990 with India's then Prime Minister V P Singh during which many young government officials told me about the single biggest existential threat to their country.
The Maldives is a collection of 1200 atolls, of which 80 percent barely manage to rise three to five feet above the sea level. That low elevation makes it the world's lowest nation. I had then reported about the threat of the rising sea levels and how many Maldivians feared that most of the islands would begin to go underwater in two decades or so. We are close to the end of those two decades and although the atolls are still around, so is the likelihood of submergence. I remember one senior government official, who was surprised that I was interested in this story at all, took me to a spot and said, "Now you are standing on the highest spot on the Maldives." It was six feet above the sea level.
Nasheed, who was elected last year, made news sometime ago when he began shopping for an alternative homeland for his country's 330,000 people. He has considered both the neighbors India and Sri Lanka as possible countries where the Maldivians can be relocated once the atolls become uninhabitable.
The underwater meeting, reports The Independent, is scheduled for October 17 and his cabinet ministers are already training to wear their wet-suits. The meeting will take place six meters underwater. As political stunts go this is an effective one.