Fighting Climate Change the Maldives Way - Buying Land in Other Countries!

by Gopalan on Nov 11 2008 9:40 AM

Maldives, in danger of losing considerable land, if not submerging completely, as the sea rises relentlessly, is considering various options – including buying lands in other countries!

THE country will soon begin to divert a portion of the country's billion-dollar annual tourist revenue for the purpose. At the moment, Sri Lanka, India and Australia seem to be on its radar.

Mohamed Nasheed, who takes power officially today in the capital, Male, admitted the chain of 1200 islands and coral atolls dotted 800 kilometres from the tip of India is likely to disappear under the waves if the current pace of climate change continues to raise sea levels.

The islands have a population of 30,000 persons. Climate change is a very real threat to Maldivians, no abstract concept.

Male itself is the world's most densely populated town: 100,000 people cram into two square kilometres.

The United Nations forecasts that the seas are likely to rise by up to 59 centimetres by 2100 due to global warming. Most parts of the Maldives are just 1.5 metres above water. The President said even a "small rise" in sea levels would inundate large parts of the archipelago.

"We can do nothing to stop climate change on our own and so we have to buy land elsewhere," Nasheed said. "It's an insurance policy for the worst possible outcome. After all, the Israelis [began by buying] land in Palestine."

The President - a human rights activist who swept to power in elections last month by ousting Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the man who once imprisoned him - said he had broached the idea with a number of countries and found them to be receptive.

He said Sri Lanka and India were targets because they had similar cultures, cuisines and climates. Australia was being considered because of the amount of unoccupied land available.

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

Nasheed said he intended to create a sovereign wealth fund from the money generated by "importing tourists", in the way that Arab states had done by exporting oil.

"Kuwait might invest in companies; we will invest in land."

He further said that without an emergency bail-out from the international community, the future of the Maldives as a democracy would be in doubt, writes Randeep Ramesh for Guardian News & Media.

The 41-year-old Nahseed is a rising star in Asia, where he has been compared to Nelson Mandela. Before taking office the President asked Maldivians to move forward without rancour or retribution - an astonishing call, given that Nasheed had gone to jail 23 times, been tortured and spent 18 months in solitary confinement.

The Maldives is one of the few Muslim nations to make a relatively peaceful transition from autocracy to democracy. The Gayoom "sultanate" was an iron-fisted regime that ran the police, army and courts and which banned rival parties.

Public flogging, banishment to island gulags and torture were routinely used to suppress dissent and the fledging pro-democracy movement. Gayoom was "elected" president six times in 30 years - but never faced an opponent. However, public pressure grew, and last year he conceded that democracy was inevitable.

"It's desperate. We are a 100 per cent Islamic country and democracy came from within. Do you want to lose that because we were denied the money to deal with the poverty created by the dictatorship?" the new President asked, referring the relentless rise in sea-levels.

Tom Picken, head of international climate change at Friends of the Earth, described the new President’s move as a wake-up call. "The Maldives is left to fend for itself. It is a victim of climate change caused by rich countries."