Maldives sinking? Searches for a new home

November 11th, 2008 - 10:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Male, Nov 11 (IANS) Fears of global warming are haunting the Maldives with its new president indicating that the Indian Ocean island country will not shy away from buying “land somewhere” that could act as an “insurance” against global warming that could submerge some of the world’s lowest-lying islands. “We can do nothing to stop climate change on our own and so we have to buy land elsewhere,” said Mohamed Nasheed, also known as Anni, a former political prisoner who took power Tuesday after a swearing-in ceremony in the Maldivian capital.

“It’s an insurance policy for the worst possible outcome. After all, the Israelis (began by buying) land in Palestine,” he said.

With the UN conjuring up a grim forecast saying the seas are likely to rise by up to 59 centimetres by 2100 due to global warming, Nasheed is planning to prepare his country for this possible catastrophe and said he has already taken up the issue with some countries and found them to be “receptive”.

Most parts of the Maldives, known for its luxury resorts and pristine sun-blessed beaches, are barely three feet above water. If the sea levels rise even marginally, it could submerge large parts of the archipelago.

“We do not want to leave the Maldives, but we also do not want to be climate refugees living in tents for decades,” he stressed.

He said Sri Lanka and India could be possible choices because of near similar cultures, cuisines and climate. Australia is also on the list of probables.

However, the issue did not figure in the discussion between Nasheed and visiting Indian Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

“The reports appear far-fetched. There is a lot of speculation. The issue did not come up for discussion at all,” India’s High Commissioner to the Maldives A.K. Pandey told IANS.

In an interview to BBC, Nasheed’s spokesman Ibrahim Hussein Zaki underlined that the new government had to take action as “any sea level rise could have a devastating effect on the people of the Maldives and their very survival”.

The Maldives was one of the founding members of the Alliance of Small Island States, which since 1992 has been asking the world’s industrialized countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that lead to rising temperatures.

The vulnerability of the Maldives to flooding came to the fore when the 2004 tsunami wreaked havoc to the nation’s tourist-centric economy and threatened to submerge many islands.

MalĂ©, the world’s most densely populated town crammed into a stretch of a couple of kilometres, is ringed by sea walls, built with assistance from Japan.

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