Monday, October 19, 2009

Maldavian Cabinet Pulls Creative Attention-Getting Stunt

Photo courtesy Maldivesonlineguide.

The Maldives chain of coral reef islands is southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean. The many coral reef islands, 1,190 in total, form an archipelago of 26 natural atolls. An atoll is a ring of coral islands and reefs that nearly or entirely enclose a lagoon. The 26 atolls are organized into 19 administrative atolls with the capital island of Male' having the distinction of being the sole component of the twentieth division.

Situated on the equator, the Maldives are a jewel sparkling in the Indian Ocean; and, attract hundreds of thousands of tourists a year. They are a favourite destination of scuba divers, snorkelers, and water enthusiasts the world over.

And they are sinking!

A single boat seemingly floats in midair on the beautiful crystal clear beaches in the Republic of Maldives in the Indian Ocean. In the background is an island that has now been split into two pieces. The section in the middle is now underwater. Photo courtesy funonthenet.

As any of my regular friends will tell you, I absolutely adore creativity and feel that most problems can be solved without violence of any kind – verbal, physical or emotional.

The people of the Republic of Maldives have long thought that enough attention is not being paid to their plight. Since the republic averages a mere 7’ (2.1 meters) above sea level, the spring tides have repeatedly washed over the land leaving the soil that used to support vegetable gardens and fruit orchards salty and unable to sustain plant life. Some coconut trees are still standing; but, they are falling over more and more as the salt water erodes their roots.

Some islanders are having food relief brought in by boat but subsist on a diet of fish and coconut in between deliveries. Some live entirely on just fish and coconut if their island does not receive food subsidies.

Maldivian Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Ibrahim Didi signs a document calling on all countries to cut down their carbon dioxide emissions ahead of a major U.N. climate change conference in December in Copenhagen, in Girifushi, Maldives, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009. Photo courtesy THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Mohammed Seeneen.

In an effort to draw worldwide attention to their plight, the members of the Maldives’ cabinet put on wetsuits, took the plunge and using hand signals conducted their last meeting underwater.

President Mohammed Nasheed and 13 other government officials submerged and conducted the meeting on the sea floor - six metres below the surface of a lagoon off Girifushi.

"What we are trying to make people realize is that the Maldives is a frontline state. This is not merely an issue for the Maldives but for the world," Nasheed said. The Maldives are the lowest-lying country in the world.

Surrounded by coral and curious fish, bubbles floating around each participant, the president, vice-president, cabinet secretary and 11 ministers signed a document urging all countries to cut their carbon dioxide emissions.

At the UN climate change conference in December in Copenhagen, a successor to the Kyoto Protocol will be negotiated to cut the emission of greenhouse gases.

Wealthy nations want broad emissions cuts from all countries, while poorer ones say industrialized countries should carry most of the burden.

President Nasheed has already announced plans for a fund to buy a new homeland for his people if the 1,192 low-lying coral islands are submerged. If the Maldives survive, he has promised to make the islands, population 350,000, the world's first carbon-neutral nation within a decade.

"We have to get the message across by being more imaginative, more creative and so this is what we are doing," he said in an interview on a boat en route to the dive site.

While the President is a certified diver, the other attendees had to take diving lessons before the meeting.

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