Wednesday, December 16, 2009

You can’t cut a deal with Mother Nature says Maldives president

For the past week, a striking photo exhibition has lined one of the walls inside DGI-Byen, where the people’s climate conference (Klimaforum09) is taking place alongside the official UN meetings. While many of the displays at Klimaforum09 document the difficulties in the Global South, few draw such important attention as the BluePeace photography display aptly titled ‘Vulnerable’. Depicting scenes from life in the Maldives, a nation precariously close to sea level, the pictures document island erosion, protective sea walls, and houses forced onto stilts due to rising water levels. Captions below each photo explore ideas that fisheries will be run out of business — or worse, that an entire nation of people will be displaced in the coming years, climate refugees from one of the most beautiful places in the world.

The small island nation in the Indian Ocean is home to over 300,000 people spread across 200 inhabited islands out of 1,192 that make up the country. One of the most widely geographically disparate countries in the world, the Maldives is also the nation closest to sea level. While often described as a tropical vacation paradise in tourism brochures, the islands hit the headlines in the wake of the 2004 tsunami. A total of six Maldivian islands were lost in the disaster, and nearly 60 others were evacuated.

In a low sea level climate prone to monsoons and erosion, problems with extreme weather have forced many communities onto higher ground. The nation’s coral reefs, which serve as natural sea walls and protect against floods and tidal waves, have been slowly dying off as water temperatures continue to rise and pH levels in the ocean shift. Fish that rely on the reefs for a home have also perished, leaving the people that depend on the fishing industry scrambling to make ends meet.

But among Maldivian people, even in the face of such adversity, hope has been on the rise. This week, their optimism spread all the way to Copenhagen and excitement reached a fever pitch at Klimaforum09 on Monday when it was announced that President Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives’ first democratically elected leader, would address his country’s commitment to becoming carbon-neutral in an effort to thwart the effects of global warming. Sitting with well-known American writer and activist Bill McKibben, President Nasheed spoke to a crowd he addressed as ‘fellow environmentalists’.

Nasheed’s own history is as complicated as that of his home. A former political prisoner in his own country for his outspoken criticism of the government, Nasheed has been recognized as an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience since 1991 and lived as a political refugee outside his home country between 2003 and 2005. On a number of occasions before his self-imposed exile, he was imprisoned for his statements against the government. It has been reported that during his prison sentences, he was placed in solitary confinement and tortured.

While in exile Nasheed helped found the first political party in the Maldives, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), through which he rose to power last year. The MDP, a liberal party committed to human rights and democracy, has had an impressive first year under Nasheed. In addition to Nasheed’s pledge to turn the country carbon-neutral through the use of solar and wind power; in cooperation with Bill McKibben’s campaign, President Nasheed held an underwater cabinet meeting in October to draw attention to the threat of climate change to low-lying island nations around the world.

In his speech on Monday afternoon, President Nasheed explained that after overcoming personal battles in the name of democracy, his country now stands to test the international community with the task of standing up for small island nations. In a speech given alongside McKibben, Nasheed made references to his own time as a political prisoner as he demanded a reversal in climate change patterns. “Four years later and a continent away, we meet here to confront another seemingly impossible task” Nasheed said, referring to his 2005 return to the Maldives. “We are here to save our planet from the silent, patient and invisible enemy that is climate change.”

Echoing Klimaforum09 themes from the previous week — that smaller nations can set an example for the world’s superpowers, and that indigenous activists are leading the fight against global warming — President Nasheed expressed his hope that the Maldives will set a precedent for other countries. “We believe that if the Maldives can become carbon neutral; richer, larger countries can follow”, he stated. “But if there is one thing I know about politicians, it’s that they won’t act until their electorates act first”. Asking citizens to become more involved, Nasheed stated, “This is where you come in.”

Like other speakers at the people’s climate summit who have advocated non-violent resistance, Nasheed asked the assembled crowd to consider action in the streets. “History shows us the power of peaceful protest. From the civil rights movement, to Gandhi’s Quit India campaign; non-violent protest can create change”. Nasheed added hopefully, “Protest worked in the struggle for democracy in the Maldives”. His presence in the Copenhagen auditorium proved that much.

Throughout his speech, Nasheed repeated the figure ‘350’, referring to the safe upper limit of CO2 in parts per million in the atmosphere. “I am not a scientist, but I know that one of the laws of physics is that you cannot negotiate with the laws of physics”, Nasheed stated. “Three – Five – Oh”, he spelled out, “is a law of atmospheric physics. You cannot cut a deal with Mother Nature. And we don’t intend to try”.

While deeply inspiring for the auditorium packed full of activists, scientists and journalists, it is still uncertain whether the needs of island nations like the Maldives will be considered and respected as the official UN talks wrap up this week. With some nations threatening to walk out and others absent for parts of this week, it remains to be seen if President Nasheed’s concerns will be taken on board — or whether it will truly be a movement of the people that saves countries like the Maldives.


Copenhagen: Alex Salmond throws a lifeline to sinking Maldives

ALEX Salmond has pledged to help one of the world's most vulnerable nations to fight the effects of climate change, in an address to an international audience in Copenhagen.

The First Minister signed a joint statement with the president of the Maldives at a fringe event yesterday, as world leaders gathered in the Danish capital to thrash out a global deal to beat climate change.

Mr Salmond promised to share technology and research with the Maldives, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean at particular risk from sea-level rises.

Critics questioned whether the new relationship was a stunt, and claimed the First Minister had been left embarrassed after California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, London mayor Boris Johnson and United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon, who were scheduled to speak at the side event, all pulled out.

Maldives profile: Island paradise just 6ft above the sea fears

However, Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed hailed Scotland for its support, which was pledged in front of about 350 people at a Climate Leaders Summit. The First Minister said: "The Maldives face a very real threat from rising sea levels, and I share President Nasheed's ambition to prevent the environmental disaster and human rights' catastrophe that would befall the islands, should the world fail to tackle this problem."

The Maldives, an archipelago of 1,200 islands, is at risk of disappearing under rising seawater. The nation's highest point is only 6ft above sea level. Mr Nasheed praised Scotland for its support.

"Maldives and Scotland have signed a joint statement, to develop a concrete plan of action next year aimed at co-operation on climate mitigation," he said. "We are inspired by its commitment to low-carbon growth. Scotland is an example for others to follow."

Ahmed Moosa, the president's envoy for science and technology, told The Scotsman that both were small countries trying to make a big difference. The Maldives is aiming to become carbon-neutral by 2020 and Scotland has set ambitious laws to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent.

"Both countries are leading by example and the message is everyone should work together to try to get a solution," he said.

Mr Moosa, who lives in Glasgow and is also attending the summit, added: "You might think, 'What's the big deal of Scotland and Maldives working together?' If our emissions become zero, it's not going to change the impact of climate change, but the message is, 'Let's lead by example'."

The finer details of the partnership will be thrashed out next year, but a Scottish Government spokeswoman said it would not involve Scotland giving money to the Maldives.

Scottish ministers have been left out of the official UK delegation to the Copenhagen summit, but Mr Salmond decided to attend, alongside Scottish Government climate change minister Stewart Stevenson.

Other speakers at the Climate Leaders Summit included Prince Albert II of Monaco; Mike Rann, the premier of South Australia; and Jean Charest, the premier of Quebec. Prince Charles spoke at the opening of the high-level section of the talks, in which he told delegates they had the power to "write our future".

Labour's environment spokeswoman, Sarah Boyack, said she supported the idea of a partnership with the Maldives, but added: "I hope it isn't a stunt. I hope they have thought through the long-term relationship."

She thought it had become "embarrassing" for Mr Salmond that Mr Schwarzenegger had pulled out of talking at the same event.

She said: "Alex Salmond's visit to Copenhagen is becoming embarrassing. Instead of chasing Arnie around with his autograph book, the First Minister should get back to Scotland, roll up his sleeves and get on with the real work of reducing carbon emissions. The reality is that he's had six months to get things moving after the parliament passed our Climate Change Act, but so far we've yet to see any progress."

However, an aide for Mr Salmond denied that the non- appearance of Mr Schwarzenegger and the others was a snub.

"Obviously, they decide their particular schedule nearer the time. They were down to attend but, given the huge variety of different events, other representatives will take their place."

A group of 17 activists disrupted the Climate Leaders Summit, protesting against the support of the organisers, the Climate Group, for carbon trading. They held banners reading "Climate Group: Leading us into climate chaos", before being arrested.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "It's hardly surprising that the First Minister finds himself snubbed by Arnie and on the wrong end of climate protests, given his love for new motorways and coal power stations."


Maldives president: People, not politicians, can save the planet

The president of the Indian Ocean nation of the Maldives Islands, Mohamed Nasheed, stressed the power of people to take action on climate change, when he spoke to a packed audience at Klimaforum09, the alternative climate summit in Copenhagen, on December 13.

“The social movements have the power to save the planet from the effects of climate change”, Nasheed said. “My message to you is to continue the process of movement building after the conference.”

Nasheed used his own personal story to illustrate the point. A few years ago, he was in prison because of his work as a human rights activists, but upon his release he became the first democratic elected president of the island nation acutely threatened by the rising sea levels.

“We had no power, but our cause”, the president explained, before he went on to promise to turn his country into the first CO2 neutral society in the world in just ten years time.

“Let us make the goal of reaching 350 parts per million. We believe that if the Maldives can become carbon neutral so can larger countries.”


Sunday, December 13, 2009

'Renewables produce cheaper electricity than generators'

Maldives confident cost of ambitious plan to go carbon-neutral by 2020 will be more than justified by the savings when it would no longer have to spend on oil

Maldives: President Mohammad Nasheed believes climate change is the 21st century's greatest human rights issue and has called for massive investments in renewable energy and green technologies to address this critical issue.

His government aims to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by 2020, with plans for renewable generation of electricity and new power transmission infrastructure, including wind turbines, rooftop solar panels and biomass plants.

The move will require significant investment and support from developed nations across the globe. Gulf News spoke to President Nasheed on his recently-announced plans to make the Indian Ocean islands carbon-neutral within a decade.

Gulf News: What will be the cost of reaching your ambitious 2020 carbon-neutral goal?

Mohammad Nasheed: The Maldives carbon-neutral plan was drafted in February by British climate change experts Chris Goodall and Mark Lynas. The plan calculates that the Maldives can attain carbon-neutral status in ten years by switching from oil to wind, solar and biomass for electricity production, switching to biofuels for maritime transport and offsetting aviation pollution.

The plan calculates the cost of achieving carbon-neutral status at approximately $1.1 billion (Dh4 billion) over ten years. The plan would pay back, however, in 11-20 years (depending on the oil price) as we would no longer have to spend money importing oil.

The government is actively seeking foreign investments in our energy, transport and waste sectors. This year, we signed two agreements with international energy companies, who are planning to build farms in the Maldives. We hope to attract further investments in future. Renewables produce cheaper electricity in the Maldives than our existing diesel generators, enabling investors to make good profits and consumers to enjoy cheaper power.

What incentives do you think should be given to developed countries to help poorer nations in this respect?

In the Maldives, successful climate change adaptation has not been possible in the absence of good governance. The Maldives has recently undergone a peaceful transition from authoritarianism to democracy. The previous government spent tens of millions of dollars on adaptation projects in islands across the country. Most of these projects have failed. The projects were built in the wrong place, the contracts were given to the wrong people, local people objected to what was proposed. In order to have successful adaptation, we need a mechanism whereby local people can tell those in power how best to undertake adaptation projects on their islands. For the Maldives, that mechanism is democratic good governance.

What measures will the Maldives take if the international community does not rise to the challenge of making the Maldives carbon-neutral by 2020, as they may be spending to make their own economies and industries greener?

We believe that going carbon neutral is not only the right thing to do, it also makes economic sense. Oil supplies are running out and fossil fuel prices unpredictable. Renewable energy lessens our dependence on fossil fuel imports, minimising uncertainty and enhancing energy security. Moreover, while renewable infrastructure is quite costly, once it is in place the operational costs are lower than fossil fuels because raw materials such as the sun, the wind and the waves are essentially free. So renewables offer long term cost savings.

Do you still have plans of purchasing land abroad as security if the Maldives disappear due to rising sea levels?

Nobody in the Maldives wants to leave home. The government is doing everything we possibly can to remain here. We are improving sea defences, such as sea walls, revetments and embankments. We are working to improve the coral reefs and coastal vegetation, which are our islands' natural defence mechanisms. And we are exploring new building designs, such as building houses on stilts so they withstand storm surges and floods. The bottom line, however, is dry land and if the world allows the climate crisis to turn into a catastrophe, then future generations of Maldivians will have no choice but to seek new homes on higher ground. I believe it is right to have this conversation today so we can start to plan for the problems tomorrow may bring.

Last year, I suggested we should start saving a portion of our tourism revenues in a Sovereign Wealth Fund, to help future generations cope with climate change.

Ultimately, this fund could be used to help people leave.

I stress that this is not a problem unique to the Maldives. We are merely the first people who are talking out loud about these issues. If we ignore the warning signs and continue blindly down a ‘business as usual' polluting path, then it will not just be Maldivians looking for a new home but also the good people of London, New York and Hong Kong.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Small island states on Friday unveiled a draft deal they say is the minimum needed to halt climate change and which answers concerns of major developing nations like China who held up talks over a similar proposal.

The draft from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) would set extremely stringent emissions reduction targets for developed nations that go far beyond their current offers and are likely to be rejected.

The draft calls for developed nations to cut emissions 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and provide financial aid to poor countries equivalent to up to 1 percent of national income.

The group also wants a legally binding deal in Copenhagen, even though hosts Denmark say this is highly unlikely.

"Major emitters among the industrialised countries must take the major responsibility for the past and the major responsibility as we go forward," Dessima Williams, chair of the AOSIS group of 43 members, told a news conference.

Selwyn Hart, from Barbados, said the draft answered the main concerns of Chinese negotiators who rejected a similar proposal from the tiny Pacific Island state of Tuvalu. Beijing objected largely because it cast doubt over the Kyoto Protocol, he said.

"The major differences are not with content," said Hart.

Debate over the Tuvalu proposal stalled the main talks for two days, although sideline discussions on issues such as technology transfer and financing have continued.

Williams said she did not expect a repeat of Beijing's objections and had met with the G77 and China, a grouping of developing nations, to discuss the proposal.


But even if it protects the Kyoto Protocol, other elements are likely to concern the Chinese team, who say the right to develop must come before the fight against climate change.

Island states that face inundation if sea levels rise say nothing is more important than curbing carbon emissions.

"Our draft does not require developing countries to undertake quantified emission reductions," said Hart.

"However ... it is impossible for our ambitious targets to be met without action by all countries, including ourselves."

The draft calls for a cut in global emissions of 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

It also aims to limit temperature rises to just 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels -- below the 2 degrees targeted by most major emitters.

But the delegates say their proposals are serious and they want the ambition level of the talks stepped up.

"Survival is not negotiable," said Maldives Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam. "We do not want people to walk out at the end of this conference feeling good but having done nothing."

Tuvalu delegate Ian Fry said it was not out of the question that some leaders, who arrive for a summit next week, could block a deal if it was too weak.

"It's possible if there's no intention of seriously considering a legal agreement at this meeting, a number of heads could say 'This isn't good enough'," he told Reuters.


India-Maldives final tomorrow: Bangladesh crash out of SAFF Championship

Bangladesh's hope to play the final of the Bangabandhu 6th SAFF Championship was shattered as they suffered a 0-1 goal defeat to India in the second semifinal at the Bangabandhu National Stadium (BNS) here Friday.

India will now play the high voltage SAFF final Sunday against the holders Maldives, which earlier confirmed their final berth eliminating Sri Lanka in the day's other semifinal at the same venue.

The final kicks off at 7:30 pm. State-owned Bangladesh Television (BTV) will telecast live the match.

In the day's match, Indian skipper Sushil Kumar Singh scored the all-important goal for India in the 62nd minute with a ground shot four yards from the D-box after taking a close pass from his fellow Rebert Lalthlamuana, leaving the jam-packed stadium in a mood of despair.

Thousands of Bangladesh supporters came to cheer their team on the weekend, but they had to leave the big bowl in frustration after the final whistle.

Three times SAFF champion India today clearly dominated Bangladesh in the whole proceeding and played a better football compared to their previous group three matches. But the hosts ultimately could not come back.

India launched the first attack in the 19th minute as Rebert Lalthlamuana header off Denzil free kick from danger zone went beside the sidebar.

He again took a powerful free kick from 10 yards form the goal bar, but this time Bangladesh custodian Aminul brilliantly fisted the ball.

Aminul again foiled the Indian attack when Jibon Sing took an angular shot from vantage position in the in the 39th minute.

Bangladesh got only a scoring chance in the 43rd minute, but Zahid Parvez powerful shot from outside the danger zone was saved by dependable Indian custodian Arindam at a cost of corner.

In 2005 SAFF Championship in Karachi, India beat Bangladesh by 2-0 goal.

Yellow cards: Jibon and Rebert (India); Ariful (Bangladesh).


Huge wind farm to get even bigger

Planning approval has been given for a wind farm in Scotland to grow - making it the largest onshore site in Europe.

The Whitelee wind farm on Eaglesham Moor, East Renfrewshire, currently has 140 turbines.

ScottishPower Renewables has been given the go-ahead to add another 39 turbines bringing the wind farm's generating capacity up to 593 MW.

The Scottish government said the growth would enable the site to power 275,000 homes and support 200 jobs.

The expansion was announced by First Minister Alex Salmond at a news conference in Edinburgh.

He said: "Scotland continues to lead the way in developing the technology and capacity - in renewables, in carbon capture, in energy efficiency measures - to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change.

"The Whitelee extension underlines Scotland's place at the cutting edge of green energy and our comprehensive climate change framework, including the world-leading emission reduction targets of 42% and 80% by 2020 and 2050 respectively."

'Ambitious targets'

Mr Salmond also unveiled plans to work with one of the countries most vulnerable to rising sea levels to tackle the impact of global warming.

The first minister said he would be in Copenhagen next week to sign a joint-statement with The Maldives President, Mohamed Nasheed.

This will highlight Scotland's ambitious climate change targets and press for a similarly ambitious global agreement.

He added: "This week Scotland became one of the first countries in the world to publish a climate change adaptation framework.

"Along with our plans to increase green energy capacity and cut emissions, our adaption plans can provide an exemplar to other nations on building resilience to the potential risks.

"This will form part of our work with the Maldives, to transfer knowledge about the capacity building needed to respond to the huge challenges posed by the climate change around us."


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Afternoon tea with the FT: Mohamed Nasheed

By Rahul Jacob

As our plane circles over the Maldives, I look out on the light turquoise circles of water where coral beds break up the indigo blue of the Indian Ocean. More than a thousand tiny islands strung across the water, most of which are uninhabited, the Maldives were described by the 14th-century traveller Ibn Battutah as one of the wonders of the world, and so it seems that afternoon. But, as we prepare to land at Malé airport, I begin to imagine a picture quite different from that enjoyed by honeymooners and tourists to this much-loved holiday destination. Many scientific estimates predict that by the end of this century a large number of the low-lying islands that make up this country could be submerged by rising sea levels brought about by global warming.

I have flown to Malé from nearby Bangalore to meet Mohamed Nasheed, president of the Maldives, whose attempts to persuade the world of the seriousness of this plight have in the past few months turned him into something of a cause célèbre on the issue of climate change. At a United Nations climate summit in New York in September, he gave a speech in which he bluntly declared, “We know that you are not really listening ... Once the rhetoric has settled and the delegates have drifted away, the indignation cools and the world carries on [with] business as usual.”

A week before our meeting, more headlines were made when Nasheed, a trained diver, and six of his ministers conducted a cabinet meeting underwater to draw attention to the threat faced by his country (they used hand signals to communicate). And, next week, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, he will call for reductions of annual carbon emissions per capita of at least two tonnes. He is also expected to rail against signing a “global suicide pact”, a treaty that settles for anything less.

On my way to have afternoon tea with Nasheed at his office, I wander through the candy-coloured capital of Malé, all vibrant lemons and pinks, and stop at the stock exchange (it has four listed companies) before arriving outside the imposing presidential building, painted peppermint and white. Two tour groups are gazing up – one Chinese, the other Indian. The Chinese group moves off quickly and I am left listening to snatches of Hindi and English from the Indian tour guide. He declares the Maldives “Muslim but broadminded” and says in Hindi that President Nasheed has a “very good relationship” with India.

As I go up to the first floor to meet Nasheed, I think that if anyone can bridge the large divide on climate change between developing countries like China and India and the developed world, it is the articulate Maldivian.

Nasheed is accompanied by his British press secretary and a couple of aides. He has, as one writer observed, the build of “a jockey” and looks even younger than his 42 years. The president leads me to a balcony where an enormous Maldivian tea is laid out with half a dozen place settings. As I fret that all his aides are about to join us, he reassures me by wondering aloud why the table is so laden. I pour him a cup of Lipton’s tea, served black as is customary in the Maldives.

Nasheed has just returned from another climate change conference, this one in India on transferring environmental technologies from western countries to the developing world. I ask him whether New Delhi’s stance is changing – India’s government has been one of the most unyielding critics of the west on climate change, arguing that limits on emissions should not apply to developing countries. He points to a recent leaked letter from the Indian environment minister arguing that it would be in India’s interests to curb emissions.

“India’s [politicians] have this difficulty completely trusting the west and seeing that there is no diabolical plan here to get at India because India’s [economy] is developing fast,” says Nasheed. “I have faith in India because it is a democracy with a very vibrant civil society.” He points out that there are 400m Indians without electricity and that, “If you start thinking in old concepts like diesel (which powers the generators used when there are power cuts in India) and coal (used in most power plants in India), then we are doomed.”

Diplomatically, he follows this by saying that neither China nor India can be expected to throttle their economic growth rates because they have large young populations that need employment. For China and India to “reduce consumption ... to forgo growth is going to be very difficult,” he says.

His east-coexists-with-west approach is also apparent on the table in front of us – traditional Maldivian snacks sit alongside the most luridly coloured pastries I have ever seen (neither of us touches them) and jam doughnuts. I ask him to explain what a Maldivian tea is. “There are usually tuna sandwiches and there are fried tuna rolls and fishcakes. It’s tuna, tuna, tuna,” he declares with a laugh. “It’s all fish. Those are pastries, which are not Maldivian at all.” He eats part of a fishcake while I choose a fish roll and refill his cup assiduously from a gigantic white tea pot.

I tell him that, after his underwater cabinet meeting stunt, colleagues have been joking that he will insist on doing this interview under water as well. He defends the publicity coup as a way for a tiny nation to punch above its weight in attracting the world’s attention. “We are sitting in the middle of the Indian Ocean, there’s 300,000 people here and how in God’s name do we make our message heard? People might say these are gimmicks and stunts. I respect them, I agree with them.

“What I asked myself was, ‘Do I pay a publicity company millions of dollars?’ What we were trying to say is, ‘Look we need a deal in Copenhagen.’” What he wants in Copenhagen is for all of us to “to stop behaving in the manner in which we have been behaving”. Unusually for a politician from the developing world, he is calling for a serious commitment on the part of both developed and developing countries to become carbon neutral over this century and will be pushing for developing countries to embrace green technologies.

He has announced that the Maldives will be carbon neutral by 2020. When I suggest that the tiny country’s carbon footprint is probably less than the carbon emissions of the aeroplanes landing at the airport that keep its main industry, tourism, growing, Nasheed says that for developing countries struggling with climate change “the most important adaptive measure is development; you need to have a good income stream”.

He believes that western governments need to change the way policies to arrest global warming are sold to the public. “Instead of asking people to give up life, governments should start spending large amounts on renewable energy plants. The west should switch to renewable energy and – here comes the catch – they should also help countries that need to adapt [by transferring technologies].” By way of example, he points to an agreement between his government and Falcon Energy and GE Energy for a $250m power plant that will produce renewable energy at 15 cents a kilowatt instead of the 50 cents per unit it currently costs at a conventional power plant in the Maldives.

Last year, just days after his election in October, Nasheed announced he would create a sovereign fund to finance the migration of the entire Maldives population if the threat of the Maldives being swamped by rising sea levels continued to increase. This quixotic idea was the first of his successful attempts to grab global attention, though one wonders about the practicalities of moving his countrymen to Australia, India or Sri Lanka as he has suggested. Pushed to elaborate on such plans, he retreats to generalities. “We’re talking about needing dry land and if we are not going to be here, where are we going to be?” he asks. “I think we have to have that conversation now.”

His instinct for gimmicky announcements contrast with his career in the Maldives. Formerly an investigative journalist, he reported on corruption and human rights abuses by the regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a dictatorship which lasted for more than three decades, and was jailed on 16 occasions. In 1999, Nasheed was elected to parliament before being jailed again. In early 2004 he fled to Sri Lanka, where he continued to liaise with members of the Maldivian Democratic party, which he co-founded. He received political asylum in the UK in late 2004 but returned to the Maldives in May 2005. Pressure from the US and the European Union, and rising domestic anger, prompted a first round of free polling in October 2008. After gaining support from other opposition parties, Nasheed won an election run-off against Gayoom by gaining 54 per cent of the vote.

In his first year in power he has converted the wedding-cake villa of his predecessor into the Supreme Court, to symbolise the rule of law in a democracy, and auctioned off the presidential yacht and a gold-plated toilet. He has also put in place a pension plan and now wants to cut the civil service by 10,000 to 15,000 workers, a move that has prompted demonstrations in the capital. “I like the demonstrations [by civil servants],” he says. “It’s good they are making their points because in the past they would all have been arrested.”

I ask him about his time as a political prisoner and marvel that he is seemingly at peace despite spending a total of six years in jail, 18 months of which were in solitary confinement, and despite the fact that Gayoom remains active in politics as leader of the opposition party. “You lose the novelty of time in solitary confinement,” Nasheed begins. “You know, for instance, I love the sunset, but I spent so many sunsets in solitary confinement ... ”

Recollecting how he missed his two daughters’ births because he was in jail, he grows silent. (Human rights groups report that political prisoners were brutally beaten and occasionally left on uninhabited islands covered with molasses.) Beyond conceding that he was brought to “the brink of death twice”, he refuses to discuss the matter further. Instead he addresses the subject of reconciliation: “It’s difficult to move forward and I can understand why people [whose family members were tortured or imprisoned by Gayoom’s regime have demanded his prosecution] would need justice done, but because this thing is so delicately poised it can come out [as violence on] the streets.”

His affection for Britain extends beyond gratitude for giving him political asylum and his close ties with the Tory leadership (he spoke at the recent party conference in Manchester). The son of a wealthy Maldivian businessman, he was sent to boarding school in Britain and then studied maritime law at John Moores University in Liverpool. He says the British education system “is particularly good at bringing out the best of whatever you have”. I ask him what he means. “At a very early stage, they realised I might be good at public speaking rather than [at] rugby. And public speaking was the most important tool that I had in winning this election, nothing other than the ability to stand in front of the microphone and say ‘hello’ and continue with the speech.”

He is also a fan of 21st-century British multiculturalism. He is worried by the rise of militant Islam in the Maldives and extols the island state’s liberal Sufi Islamic traditions. He says 14 Maldivians have been arrested in Waziristan in Pakistan, for being on the Taliban’s side.

I say that it is a remarkable that a tiny country should be at the crossroads of such issues as terrorism, the battle between moderate and militant Islam, climate change and the transition from dictatorship to democracy.

Nasheed argues, unconventionally for an Asian leader, that democracy provides a more effective way of dealing with the problems a nation confronts. “It is so much easier; you can always tell the people and they will tell us how to go about it. If you want longevity, then democracy is not the right form, but if you’re looking at communicating with people efficiently then democracy makes that much easier.”

His aides are circling behind our table and I am ushered out. A photographer and reporter from a Finnish newspaper supplement have been waiting patiently for a photo shoot scheduled to start 45 minutes ago. The photographer wants Nasheed, in a play on the film The Age of Stupid, which forecast environmental apocalypse, to hold up a handwritten sign, which declares in Finnish, “Don’t be stupid.” Then she asks the president to stand on a chair placed precariously close to the balcony’s edge.

Ever the showman, Nasheed calls out to me, “Look what they are doing to me and you say it’s my fault!” He looks a little silly, like a schoolboy being punished. Yet he would probably argue that a little embarrassment is worth it to highlight the threat to his besieged nation – and the world – from global warming.

Rahul Jacob is the FT’s travel editor


President’s office
Malé, The Maldives

Fish rolls
Tuna sandwiches
Lipton’s tea


Re-icing the Arctic and other plans to save the world

Mohamed Nasheed’s proposal to relocate the population of the Maldives as the islands confront the possibility of being submerged by rising sea levels is one approach to the problem countries such as his face, writes Hazel Sheffi. More controversially, others have investigated geo-engineering – deliberate, large-scale alterations, generally opposed by scientists and environmentalist, to the earth’s atmosphere. Here are a few examples.

Source: FT

Nepal cabinet to meet near Everest to highlight climate change

Nepal's cabinet will meet near the base of Mount Everest next week to highlight the impact of climate change on the Himalayas, ahead of the UN summit to discuss global warming in Copenhagen, officials said today.

About 26 ministers and other cabinet officials will fly to Gorakshep on a helicopter to attend the cabinet meet scheduled to take place on December 4 at an altitude 5,165 metre near the Everest base camp, said Bishnu Rijal, the prime minister’s press advisor.

He said the cabinet meeting at the gateway to the Everest will pass a resolution on climate change.

A medical team will accompany the government officials along with oxygen cylinders to facilitate the cabinet meeting, he said.

The unique meeting comes after the Maldives Cabinet met underwater in October to symbolically flag the threat of global warming ahead of a crucial UN Summit.

The government of the Maldives had held the underwater cabinet meeting in a bid to draw global attention towards the rising sea levels that threaten the existence of the island country.

Earlier, mrime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal underlined the adverse impact of climate change on his country. He said Nepal is the most affected by the melting snows and our melting glaciers are inviting a bigger catastrophe in near future though it contributes minimum to the global climate change. Prime minister Nepal said his country will raise the issue of global warning in a big way at the Copenhagen conference in Denmark from December 7-18.

The Nepalese cabinet meeting, which had earlier been planned at an altitude of 5,360 metres in November, was postponed due to the ill health of the prime minister. The officials also visualised logistic problem in holding the meet at an higher altitude.

The landmark cabinet meeting would provide an unique opportunity for the top Nepalese leaders to have a first-hand information about the adverse impact of climate change on the Himalayan range, the PMO official said.

According to experts, glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, creating lakes whose walls could burst and flood villages below.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Prince Andrew the Duke of York concludes his unofficial visit to the Maldives

His Royal Highness Prince Andrew the Duke of York has concluded his unofficial visit to the Maldives. During his visit, Prince Andrew visited Gan and Hithadhoo of Addu Atoll.

Prince Andrew arrived in the Maldives on 17 November. On his arrival in Gan International Airport, he was greeted by President Mohamed Nasheed, First Lady Madam Laila Ali, Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed and Minister of State for Home Affairs in South Province Mohamed Naseer. The Prince was also given an honour guard by Maldives National Defence Force Southern Command, on his arrival.

During his visit, on 18 November, the Duke of York laid a wreath at the War Memorial in Gan, in remembrance of the servicemen who are buried on Addu Atoll.

Gan of Addu Atoll was a British Royal Air Force Base during the Second World War.

On his visit to Hithadhoo on 18 November, Prince Andrew was presented the Ceremonial Key to the South Province. The Key to the South Province was presented to Prince Andrew by Minister of State for Home Affairs in South Province Mohamed Naseer at a cultural ceremony held at the South Province Office.

Speaking at the function, President Nasheed said there were a number of lessons to be learned from the historical relations between Addu Atoll and Britain for the development of the Maldives. He thanked His Royal Highness for visiting Addu Atoll and attending the ceremonies in his honour.

Prince Andrew also spoke at the cultural ceremony. He said, visiting the South Province gave him great pleasure due to its close relations over the years with the United Kingdom.

Nothing that this was his third visit to the Maldives, Prince Andrew said seeing how the Maldives was developing and facing the environmental prospects, and learning how the Maldivians were dealing with issues of living in the middle of the Indian Ocean, “is truly invigorating”.

Prince Andrew reiterated his hope that through his work and the work he does for the United Kingdom, the Maldives and the United Kingdom “will continue to have a close relationship”.

Prince Andrew added, this relationship would help the Maldives continue its development at pace.

Following the Key presentation ceremony, the Duke of York visited the Eedhigili Kilhi conservation area, a natural lake in Hithadhoo which provides a habitat for a number of birds and other living creatures.

Before concluding his visit to Gan and Hithadhoo, the Duke of York planted a tree in the area of the former Royal Air Force Base in Gan.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Climate-vulnerable countries send SOS over climate change

Ahead of the forthcoming climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, the world's most climate-vulnerable countries have called on the developed countries to provide money amounting to at least 1.5 per cent of their gross domestic product to assist developing countries make their transition to a climate resilient low-carbon economy.

Bangladesh, Nepal, Vietnam, Kiribati, Barbados, The Maldive Island, Bhutan, Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania, popularly known as the V11, are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change but they are also among the lowest greenhouse gas emitters.

There are growing fears that some of them, like the Maldives, could disappear within a century.

The call was made Friday at a two-day meeting organised by the government of Maldives, a member of the Climate Neutral Network, according to a news release issued Saturday by the Nairobi-based United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), made available to PANA.

According to UNEP, the meeting highlighted the countries' concerns and determina tion to "green" their economies.

However, the outcome of the meeting did not quite live up to the expectations of its chief organiser, President Mohamed Nasheed of Maldives, who had hoped the countries attending the forum would commit to become carbon neutral within a decade.

In March, Nasheed announced plans to make his own country the world's first carbon-neutral nation by 2019 and last month, he announced the construction of a wind farm that can supply 40 per cent of the country's electricity.

The President has been an active spokesperson for the island states, many of which are now threatened by rising sea levels.

Earlier this year, Nasheed took part in a public service announcement (PSA) organised by UNEP, which called for world leaders to seal the deal in the climate negotiations in Copenhagen next month.

Shot in six locations and across four continents, the videos launched in September feature President Nasheed; Hollywood actor, Don Cheadle; Nobel Laureate, Professor Wangari Maathai; UN Messenger of Peace, Midori Goto; Animal Planet presenter and environmentalist, Phillipe Cousteau and wildlife film maker, Saba Douglas-Hamilton.

In May, the Maldives became the seventh country to join the Climate Neutral Network (CN Net), a UNEP initiative launched in February 2008 to promote global transition to low-carbon economies and societies.

The Climate Neutral Network also includes cities, regions, companies and organisations.

Last month, Nasheed staged the world's first underwater cabinet meeting to promote awareness about rising sea levels.

The V11 group of states said achieving carbon neutrality for developing countries will be very difficult, given their lack of resources.

The question will be on the table in just three weeks at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Maldives Press Conference held at WTM

Press conference was held during the first day of the World Travel Market to share the updates of the tourism industry as well as government e with the British media. This is the first time that the tourism sector held a press conference after the new government came into power.

The Press Conference was headed by Dr. Ahmed Ali Ali Sawad, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture. In the head table also included Dr. Farahanaz Faizal, High Commissioner of Maldives to the UK, Mr. Hussain Afeef, Executive Board Member of Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) , Ali Shiyam, Economic Advisor to the President of the Maldives, Yusuf Riffath, Chairman of Maldives Association of Travel agents and Tour Operators (MATATO), Mohamed Riyaz Chairman of Maldives Yacht Association (MAYA)

The information that the Maldives shared with the media included the bold initiatives taken by the government for the protection of the environment as well bringing to the attention of the vulnerability of the environment to the world through the much talked about ‘under water cabinet meeting’. Information was also given about the forecast of tourist arrivals for the coming years while highlighting the resilient of the tourism product of the Maldives and the continuous effort from the industry to sustain the market.

The new policies for the development of the country with tourism was also addressed at the conference, focusing on the major national transport system that was introduced and the efforts of the government to support the target of being a carbon neutral country in 10 years time with major projects like the recently announced wind farm to source power. The direction towards building a destination with a cultural product to enhance the existing popular Maldives product was also shared with the media. Source:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Maldives to support 350 with a 24 hours dive is a global campaign dedicated to unite the world to address the climate crisis. The mission of the 350 movement is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis — to create a new sense of urgency. The focus is on the number 350, as in parts per million - the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in the atmosphere.

This December, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark to craft a new global treaty, the predecessor to Kyoto protocol, on cutting emissions. The problem is, the treaty currently on the table doesn't meet the severity of the climate crisis.

Divers Association of Maldives has teamed up with the 350 movement to create a highly publicized, grassroots movement in the Maldives. The movement has created a new wave of positive energy throughout the country. The campaign also aims to educate the public and leaders on the socio-economic impact of climate change through creative means.

A 24 hour underwater dive, organized by Divers Association Maldives is scheduled to take place in the lagoon just outside of Malé, in front of the President’s Office on the 24th of this month. A total of 350 divers will participate in this event showcasing different activities at a depth of around 03 meters. An underwater protest — to highlight Maldives’ vulnerability to climate change, a Bodu Beru show (traditional Maldivian drums) and a bike ride is among some of the activities that will take place during the dive marathon.

World’s first underwater Cabinet meeting held on the 17th of October was also organized by Divers Association Maldives – in collaboration with The Government. The meeting, well received by the International media and the World community, helped to put Maldives on the map as the first nation that would be driven to extinction, due to the climate crisis.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Maldives officials dive for climate change

GIRIFUSHI, Maldives (AP) -- The president of the Maldives says he's trying to make people realize his low-lying island nation is a "frontline state" facing the threat of global warming.

To that end, President Mohammed Nasheed convened a Cabinet meeting today about 20 feet deep at the bottom of a lagoon.

The Maldives is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean made up of nearly 1,200 low-lying coral islands. They average 7 feet above sea level.

Many fear that climate change could cause sea level to rise and swamp the Maldives within a century.

Nasheed and 13 other officials donned scuba gear and used hand signals at a table on the sea floor. He says the stunt is an effort to draw attention to the serious consequences climate change could have for nations such as the Maldives.

The issue has taken on urgency ahead of a major U.N. climate change conference in December at which countries will negotiate a new international treaty.

Source: AP

Maldives MPs sink to all new lows

Politicians in the Maldives have sunk to new lows, as the President and his government ministers donned scuba gear for a cabinet meeting at the bottom of the sea.

The stunt was designed to highlight the threat that global warming poses to the low-lying nation.

Most of the island nation lies less than a meter above sea level and some scientists have warned it could be uninhabitable in less than 100 years.


Maldives Cabinet set for underwater meeting

The government in the Maldives is set to hold its first underwater cabinet meeting Saturday to attract international attention to the dangers of global warming, a spokeswoman said.

President Mohamed Nasheed, dressed in full scuba gear, is to conduct the 30 minute meeting at a depth of six meters (20 feet) just north of the capital Male from 0500 GMT, event coordinator Aminath Shauna said.

Most of the island nation, a tourist paradise featuring coral reefs and white sand beaches, lies less than one meter (3.3 feet) above sea level and scientists have warned it could be uninhabitable in less than 100 years.

Shauna said the ministers had already signed their wetsuits, which would be auctioned on the website, due to be launched later Saturday, to raise money for coral reef protection in the atoll-chain.

"All arrangements are in place for the underwater meeting," she said.

The government has arranged a horseshoe-shaped table on the seabed for the ministers, who will communicate using white boards and hand signals.

The Divers Association of Maldives (DAM) said the ministers, who had trained over the past two months, felt confident about the unprecedented meeting.

Of the 14-member cabinet, three ministers will not take part in the dive, two of whom have medical conditions while the third was currently in Europe.

The Maldives, located southwest of Sri Lanka, has become a vocal campaigner in the battle to halt rising sea levels.

In 2007, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that a rise in sea levels of 18 to 59 centimeters (seven to 24 inches) by 2100 would be enough to make the country virtually uninhabitable.

More than 80 percent of the country's land, composed of coral islands scattered some 850 kilometers (530 miles) across the equator, is less than one meter (3.3 feet) above sea level.


Maldives cabinet makes a splash

The government of the Maldives has held a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the threat of global warming to the low-lying Indian Ocean nation.

President Mohamed Nasheed and his cabinet signed a document calling for global cuts in carbon emissions.

Ministers spent half an hour on the sea bed, communicating with white boards and hand signals.

The president said the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen this December cannot be allowed to fail.

At a later press conference while still in the water, President Nasheed was asked what would happen if the summit fails. "We are going to die," he replied.

The Maldives stand an average of 2.1 metres (7ft) above sea level, and the government says they face being wiped out if oceans rise.

"We're now actually trying to send our message, let the world know what is happening, and what will happen to the Maldives if climate change is not checked," President Nasheed said.

"If the Maldives cannot be saved today we do not feel that there is much of a chance for the rest of the world," he added.

Military minders

Three of the 14 cabinet ministers missed the underwater meeting, about 20 minutes by boat from the capital, Male, because two were not given medical permission and another was abroad, officials said.

President Nasheed and other cabinet members taking part had been practising their slow breathing to get into the right mental frame for the meeting, a government source said.

About 5m underwater, in a blue-green lagoon on a small island used for military training, they were observed by a clutch of snorkelling journalists.

Each minister was accompanied by a diving instructor and a military minder.

While underwater, they signed a document ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, calling on all nations to cut their carbon emissions.

World leaders at the summit aim to create a new agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.


Maldives Ministers Dive Into Cabinet Meeting

Ministers in the Maldives are taking part in their first underwater cabinet meeting to draw attention to global warming.

The government has arranged a horseshoe-shaped table at the bottom of the sea and they will communicate using white boards and hand signals.

The event will be "chaired" by President Mohamed Nasheed and there will be a total of 13 officials meeting under water.

Expert divers from the Maldivian military will be on hand to ensure the politicians are safe.

The ministers have been in training over the past two months and say they feel confident about the meeting's venue.

"The ministers are fairly comfortable in the water particularly given that they've just started diving," said Zoona Naseem of the Divers Association of Maldives.

Of the 14-member cabinet, three ministers will not take part in the dive because two of them have medical conditions while the third is away in Europe.

The politicians will sign their wet suits which will be auctioned on to raise money for coral reef protection in the archipelago nation.

The Maldives, to the south west of Sri Lanka, has become a vocal campaigner in the battle to halt rising sea levels.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in 2007 that a rise in sea levels of between seven and 24 inches by 2100 would be enough to make the country virtually uninhabitable.

More than 80% of the country's land, composed of coral islands scattered some 530 miles across the equator, is less than 3.3ft above sea level.


India sending Dornier aircraft to Maldives for surveillance mission

NEW DELHI: As part of the overall strategy to prevent China from further spreading its influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), India is sending a Dornier aircraft to Maldives to help the country in maritime surveillance.

Defence ministry sources said an Indian Navy Dornier would begin its maritime reconnaissance missions from Male over the weekend. This comes in the backdrop of defence minister A K Antony's recent visit to Maldives, where he promised measures to bolster defence cooperation with Maldives.

Under the new plan, India will apparently help Maldives set up a network of ground radars in all its 26 atolls and link them with the Indian military surveillance systems.

Moreover, amid fears in Male that one of its island resorts could be taken over by terrorists, India will also provide Maldives with a couple of helicopters, as also help patrol its territorial waters with both warships and reconnaissance aircraft.

India has taken several steps to build bridges with IOR nations, which range from joint patrols with Indonesian and Sri Lankan navies and exercises with Singapore and Oman to providing seaward security for international summits in Mozambique.

Maldives, in particular, constitutes an important part of this strategy since China is making persistent moves in the region as part of its military diplomacy.

India, on its part, has always been willing to help Maldives in times of crisis. Indian paratroopers and naval warships, for instance, were rushed to Maldives in November 1988 by the Rajiv Gandhi government under Operation Cactus to thwart the coup attempt against the Abdul Gayoom government.

Similarly, India had deployed two ships and four aircraft to Maldives after the killer tsunami struck in end-2004. "In April 2006, India gifted a fast attack craft INS Tillanchang to Maldives as a goodwill gesture. Apart from training, hydrographic and military assistance, our ships visit the country regularly,'' said an officer.


Maldives underwater meeting to address climate change

Small island nations have much at stake at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

The Maldives, along with other islands such as Seychelles and Tuvalu, is organizing a series of activities and events to pressure the international community to take action. On Saturday it will hold an underwater cabinet meeting designed to highlight the danger Maldive faces from rising waters and rising temperatures.

Global Voices Online posted a roundup of blogs from Maldive explaining what the small island nation is doing to publicize the urgency of the issue.

One of the first major events, run by, was a Global Climate Wake-Up Call on Septemer 21 in Malé, the capital of Maldives.

The International Day of Climate Action, coordinated by, will be on October 24. Among the events of that day: 350 grounded motor vehicles and a 350 kilowatt reduction in energy consumption in Malé.

“350″ signifies the safe upper limit (in parts per million) for carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere. The current level is 389 ppm. Vroomfondel explains the movement’s goals:

By having actions all around the world that day, plans to send a clear message to the world leaders (who will be meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark this December to craft a new global treaty on cutting emissions) that ‘the solutions to climate change must be equitable, they must be grounded in science, and they must meet the scale of the crisis.’

In addition, the Maldives Photographers Association together with the Maldives Science Society is planning to send 350 unique postcards to 350 world leaders and personalities who will be attending the Copenhagen conference (COP15).


Maldives cabinet rehearses underwater meeting

Ministers in the Maldives dived in their final rehearsals Friday ahead of an underwater cabinet meeting this weekend aimed at drawing attention to the dangers of global warming for the island nation.

Ministers in full scuba gear dived six metres (20 feet) for the dress rehearsal near the Girifushi island, 25 minutes by speed boat from the capital island Male, coordinator of the event Aminath Shauna said.

"All arrangements are now in place and we are fully prepared to have Saturday's cabinet meeting underwater," Shauna told AFP by telephone.

She said the ministers would sign their wet suits which would then be auctioned on the website to raise money to protect coral reefs in the archipelago.

The government has arranged a horse-shoe shaped table at the bottom of the sea for the ministers to hold Saturday's meeting during which they will communicate using white boards and hand signals.

The Maldivian archipelago, located south west of Sri Lanka, is on the front line of climate change and has become a vocal campaigner in the battle to halt rising sea levels.

In 2007, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that a rise in sea levels of 18 to 59 centimetres (seven to 23 inches) by 2100 would be enough to make the Maldives virtually uninhabitable.

More than 80 percent of the country's land, composed of coral islands scattered about 850 kilometres (530 miles) across the equator, is less than one metre above mean sea level.

Maldivian officials said the idea to hold the attention-grabbing underwater cabinet meeting came from President Mohamed Nasheed when he was asked by an activist group to support its "environmental day" action on October 24.

"The group asked if the Maldives can hold an underwater banner supporting environmental day," an official from the president's office said.

"The president thought for a while and then came up with the idea to have an underwater cabinet meeting."

Source: AFP

All set for underwater Cabinet meeting

Government ministers in scuba gear prepared Friday to hold an underwater meeting of the Maldives' Cabinet to highlight the threat global warming poses to the lowest-lying nation on earth.

The Maldives' president will lead Saturday's meeting around a table on the sea floor — 20 feet (6 meters) below the surface — and ministers will communicate using white boards and hand signals.

President Mohammed Nasheed has emerged as a key, and colorful, voice on climate change amid fears that rising ocean levels could swamp this Indian Ocean archipelago within a century. Its islands average 7 feet (2.1 meters) above sea level.

Nasheed is also a certified diver, while other ministers have had to take diving lessons in recent weeks.

"None of the ministers have ever been diving before, except the defense minister, and all of them are very enthusiastic," Zoona Naseem, president of Divers Association Maldives, said in a statement from the president's office.

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. He has promised to make the Maldives, with a population of 350,000, the world's first carbon-neutral nation within a decade.

The underwater Cabinet plans to sign 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, where countries will negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are blamed for causing global warming by trapping heat in the earth's atmosphere.

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

On Friday, the Maldives ministers went diving for rehearsals off the island of Girifushi, about 20 minutes by speedboat from the capital, Male, said Aminath Shauna, an official from the president's office.

Three of the 14 ministers will miss the underwater meeting because two were not given medical permission and another is abroad, Shauna said.

Source: AP

Navy to patrol Indian Ocean with Indonesia,Maldives

In the backdrop of increased piracy related incidents and illegal activities in the Indian Ocean Region, India will join littoral countries, Indonesia and Maldives, to patrol the waters to protect their maritime boundary this month.

The navies of India and Indonesia would carry out their 14th coordinated patrolling of Malacca straits region, once a piracy hit area in the Indian Ocean, from October 18 to November 5.

The Indian Navy would also deploy a Dornier maritime patrol aircraft in the Maldives as part of the security assistance New Delhi agreed to provide Male to secure its waters from pirates and threat from terror groups.

"To increase the cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region, the Indian Navy will conduct coordinated patrols of the international maritime boundary with Indonesia.


Friday, October 16, 2009

First Holiday Inn Resort to open in The Maldives

IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) on October 15 announced that it has signed an agreement with Leisure Holidays Private Limited (LHPL), a Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) Group company, to takeover on 1 November 2009 and re-brand Kandooma Maldives to Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma.

Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma is the first Holiday Inn Resort in the Republic of Maldives, and will be the second Holiday Inn property in the Republic to carry the look-and-feel and service standards of the refreshed Holiday Inn brand.

LHPL, the owning company of Kandooma Maldives, is a subsidiary of HPL. HPL is listed on Singapore Exchange Limited (SGX), and its principal businesses include hotel ownership and management, property development and investments.

"This partnership gives us the opportunity to begin a relationship with IHG. We are confident of the strength of the new Holiday Inn brand, and believe the new Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma will provide a unique guest experience in this segment of the Maldives market," said Stephen Lau, Chairman of HPL Hotels & Resorts Pte Ltd and Executive Director of HPL.

The 160-room resort is built on Kandooma Island in the South Malé Atoll, which lies 35 km south of Malé International Airport, via a forty minute speedboat ride.

Kandooma Island is a favoured tropical isle because of its close proximity to many excellent dive sites. The Kandooma Channel, Kandooma Caves and Kandooma ‘Thila' (an undersea mount) dive sites all contribute to making the island one of the Republic's most sought after destinations for divers.

The Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma will feature villas with great sea or garden views and extensive food & beverage options. This includes a specialty restaurant with Mediterranean-Thai cuisine, a well stocked wine room, and a rooftop lounge serving tapas.

Sports and recreational facilities at the resort include the Dive Centre, Kandooma Kids' Club, full spa services at the COMO Shambala Spa and 3 radio channels with resident radio DJs. Guests can also enjoy activities such as dolphin watching, windsurfing, snorkelling, guided kayak safaris, and underwater hockey.

"This partnership is both a fantastic opportunity for IHG to build a relationship with a partner like HPL and to introduce a brand-defining resort property under the new Holiday Inn brand. I have every confidence that guests will enjoy the facilities and service experience at the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma, which will be a refreshing new hotel option in the Maldives," said Jan Smits, Managing Director, IHG Asia Australasia.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Maldives Coach Istavan Urbanyi Calls For Unity Ahead Of South Asian Cup

Ahead of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship tournament in December, Maldives coach Istavan Urbanyi wants his team to pull together.

The islanders are the reigning champions in the region and want to defend their prize in Bangladesh.

“We need to join hands in order to keep the crown. Everyone in this country wants to retain the trophy and we should together work for success,” he told

Maldives are happy to have avoided the hosts and to have been grouped with India, Afghanistan and Nepal.

“I am pleased with the draw. We got the easier group compared to the other one. But none of the teams in our group is weak either. We have to play and show our commitment at maximum to retain the trophy in Maldives,” he said.

“India is the strongest in our group. I have seen their matches in Nehru Cup and we have to give our maximum.”

“We don’t know much about Afghanistan. They have mostly players who are playing in Germany in their squad. So for sure they would be strong.”

“Nepal is an emerging nation in our region. So we should not underestimate any team in our group.”


Maldives’ cops learn coastal security in M'lore

The final session of training for a batch of ten police officers from Maldives, who had enrolled in Mysore police academy, was conducted by Karnataka Coastal Security Police (CSP) in Mangalore on Monday.
As Maldives is an island, the batch of police officers were trained in coastal protection techniques through drills planned in Mangalore, Malpe, Karwar and other coastal security police stations.
In 1988, Maldives islands attacked by LTTE cadres.
Maldives government successfully fought the LTTE cadres with assistance from Indian army. Extending the goodwill, Maldives government signed an agreement seeking India’s assistance to train its police officers.
The police officers from Maldives have been trained in Maharashtra and other states. This is the third batch that has opted to train in state Police Academy. The batch includes an officer of rank of DySP, three chief Inspectors and six sub inspectors.
The initial training was given in Maldives and the officers were sent to India for higher training, Maldives police officer Mohammed Nadeem told mediapersons.
Maldives like coastal districts is humid and faces common problems like drugs smuggling, terrorism among others, Nadeem added.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Maldives International Boat Show 2009 Ship builders from Sri Lanka will also compete

The 3rd Maldives International Boat Show,will commence here today,with the participation of several Sri Lankan companies.

Managing Director of South Asia Exhibition Services, Arjun Dharmadasa, told the Island Financial Review, that big names in Sri Lanka,such as Solar Marine Lanka,Neil Marine,Barramundi Boat Yard and BTI,will be competing with companies from around the globe,including Europe,Australia and the Middle East.

Forty boat builders and suppliers worldwide,would be showcasing a variety of Kayaks,Super Yachts,modern technology,marine products and allied services,he said.

Maldivian Transport Minister Mohammed Aslam is scheduled to declare open the event.The Guest of Honour would be the Fisheries Minister Ibrahim Didi.Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed,is also expected to visit the Show.

Maldivian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Ali Hussein Didi,said that a huge industry awaits Sri Lankan boat manufacturers,who participate in MIBS 2009.

"Sri Lanka has shared its resources with the Maldives in various fields and its boat builders,can now assist us to manufacture the boats we require",he said.

"The main source of transport,to and from the 200 inhabited islands in the Maldives,is by boat and this has created a big industry,with immense benefits for those willing to take up the challenge."

Maldives,appreciates the sharing and caring of its Sri Lankan brothers and sisters.The fact that MIBS 2009,is being organized by South Asia Exhibition Services,which is a Sri Lankan company,should be an incentive for greater participation by its business sector,in Maldives economic development.Our,status as a tax haven for investors,is an added attraction,Didi said.

"It was in 2007,that SAES Director,Imran Hassan sought approval to hold the inaugural MIBS in Male",he said "I was in charge of the Male Municipality at the time.Looking back I have no regrets in approving the application,because MIBS has proved to be a great success."

Commenting on a proposal by Neil Marine,that a sail boat service be started between Sri Lanka and the Maldives,Didi said that it was a novel idea.Asked,if he,as High Commissioner would pursue the project,Didi said that an Indian ocean sail boat service, would certainly have its attractions and needs to be explored.


No danger from Al Qaeda to Maldives – Dr. Shaheed

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Ahmed Shaheed has said that Maldives will not face any dangers from terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda owing to Maldives’ announcement to strengthen diplomatic ties with Israel Dr. Shaheed said this responding to a question asked by Miadhu Daily.

Highlighting the points noted in the letter sent by Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) to President Mohamed Nasheed, Dr Shaheed said that it was a “crazy” thought that Al Qaeda would attack Maldives because of its ties with Israel.

“How many people have we invited to Maldives, who were hot terror targets? Kadirmagar was a guest of the government. How many times did he visit Maldives? Kumaaratunga came to Maldives three times. Yaasir Arafat also came to Maldives. We never saw any bomb blasts when they came here. Where would we run back then if such a terror attack happened? American ambassador always visits Maldives. That’s a high target but nothing has happened so far. So we don’t face any such threats just because we have decided to openly conduct diplomatic relations with Israel.” said Dr.Shaheed

Rejecting the false conclusions derived by DQP that we may face attacks due to relations with Israel, Foreign Minister said that from the actions of Al Qaeda, it is clear that they do not attack countries which establish relations with Israel.

Dr Shaheed further said, “We have to first understand just where Al Qaeda is operating. Afghanistan is their base and their presence is wide spread in Pakistan. Then, we hear from news that there are Al Qaeda cells in Irag and that they may travel to Comoros islands. Al Qaeda exists in Indonesia, they may go to Malaysia, Singapore, India and they are making their nest in Bangladesh. There maybe Al Qaeda presence in Sri Lanka and Maldives. But have you heard of any attacks to Israel from these people?”

Further explaining why there won’t be any dangers from terrorists to Maldives, Dr.Shaheed said, “When Al Qaeda attacked Indonesia who did they target? Their first target was Americans and the second target was just Muslims. Among Muslims they target people who do not accept their ideologies. So we can say that Al Qaeda is not attacking Jews or Israel or countries which establish relations with Israel but to Muslims who do not heed to their fundamentalists ideas.”

In the letter sent by DQP to President Nasheed concerning Maldives – Israel ties, Dr. Shaheed’s name also cropped up.

“Speaking truthfully, I have to say that when I was the Foreign Minister in Maumoon’s government, we had much closer ties with Israel than now.”

He further noted that the number of Israeli’s and Jews coming to Maldives has not decreased before or even now and that a number of Jews has even invested in Maldives.

Field visits were carried out to the various units of Forensic Department and different tools used in forensic work were also shown. The units visited were forensic Laboratory, Finger Print and Document and Digital Evidence unit.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Can Mohamed Nasheed save the Maldives – and the rest of the world – from the rising seas?

The Maldives president roused the Tory faithful at Manchester last week. Next Saturday he will hold an underwater cabinet meeting to highlight the dangers of global warming

On a humid, airless night last March, Mohamed Nasheed – the 42-year-old president of the Maldives – opened up his palace in Male for an unusual public event. A projection screen was hung at the back of a ballroom and brightly coloured chairs were arranged in rows. Then the audience was shown in: lawyers, cabinet members, presidential advisers and journalists, along with a sizeable chunk of Maldives society.

Nasheed, dressed in an open-neck striped shirt and dark chinos, sat in the front row. The lights dimmed and scenes of environmental mayhem unfolded on the screen: Sydney Opera House in flames, ice sheets crashing into the seas, deserts spreading and forests burning.

Thus the people of the Maldives had their first glimpse of Franny Armstrong's documentary, The Age of Stupid, in which Pete Postlethwaite plays the last man left alive in a post-apocalyptic, climate-fried world.

The film is scrappy but passionate, a classic example of agit-prop cinema. But in the dripping night heat of Male, The Age of Stupid had a very different effect on its audience than it has had in the west. Its message seemed direct and immediate, a call to arms. Nor is it hard to understand such emotion. The islands that make up the Maldives are threatened with complete inundation, probably by the end of the century, as ice sheets melt and sea levels rise catastrophically, thanks to global warming.

The islands stand less than a couple of metres above sea level. In fact, their highest point, at 2.3 metres, is the "lowest high point" for any nation on Earth. It won't take much to inundate them. Hence the impact of the film which left its audience desperate for reassurance from their president as he moved to a microphone stand in the centre of the ballroom.

"If man can walk on the moon, we can unite to defeat our common carbon enemy," Nasheed told them. "And so today, I announce that the Maldives will become the first carbon-neutral country in the world."

The announcement was a typically slick PR exercise by Nasheed. He had only been propelled into power a few weeks earlier in a national vote that had made him "the world's first democratically elected president of a 100% Muslim country", as he puts it.

Yet he was already revealing himself to be an adroit and effective operator. The former investigative journalist, jailed six times by his authoritarian predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and made an Amnesty prisoner of conscience in 1991, has begun making waves – in every sense.

Apart from his pledge to turn the Maldives – a collection of atolls and islands in the Indian Ocean that have become one of the world's most luxurious tourist resorts – into a carbon-neutral state, he has revealed that he has embarked on an ambitious campaign to buy up land – in India, Sri Lanka or Australia – on which he will build a New Maldives to replace the old one when it disappears under the waves. This will be achieved by using the country's vast tourism revenues to establish "a sovereign wealth fund" to relocate its people.

"Our actions will be a template, an action kit for other nations across the world," he said recently.

Last week Nasheed – or "Anni" as he is generally known – was at it again. First, he wowed the Conservative party conference in Manchester with a flawlessly delivered speech – typically presented without notes – on the importance of centre-right politics when it comes to saving the world. Then he topped this performance by announcing that this Saturday he will chair the world's first underwater cabinet meeting.

The aim of this remarkable plan is to raise global consciousness about the issues that must be hammered out at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen this December, he says. Thus Nasheed's ministers will don wetsuits and air tanks in six days' time, gather in the shallow waters off the island of Girifushi, and then get down to the business of governing the Maldives underwater – mainly by communicating through hand gestures. One minister, for education, has already had to pull out after diving experts announced he was not fit enough to take part.

The meeting will, as some observers have noted rather sardonically, bring politics in the Maldives, literally, to a new low. As one official remarked: "The paperwork should be challenging if nothing else."

The idea of an underwater cabinet meeting is certainly gimmicky but it will focus attention on a nation that stands to suffer more than any other from global warming. The Maldives could, quite simply, be wiped off the face of the Earth. "Unless something is done, my grandchildren will find these islands have completely disappeared under the waves," Nasheed said last week. Hence those undersea meetings and those carefully organised screenings.

Mohamed Nasheed was born in Male in May 1967, the son of a prosperous businessman. He was educated at Majeediyya secondary school in the Maldives before continuing his studies at a school in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1981 and then, a year later, at Dauntsey's school in Wiltshire where he sat his A-levels. Afterwards, he took a degree in marine studies at Liverpool John Moores University.

He returned to the Maldives in the late 1980s – and ran straight into trouble. He founded his own magazine, Sangu, and published a series of investigative reports about President Gayoom's regime, which he accused of being corrupt and guilty of a string of human rights abuses. After the fifth issue, Gayoom had had enough. Police raided the magazine's offices and arrested Nasheed. The 23-year-old spent several months in solitary confinement, accused of attempting to overthrow the government.

These allegations and bouts of harassment were repeated over the next 10 years. "I have personally experienced the worst that a malicious regime can contrive in order to suppress its people," he told the Conservative conference last week. "I was imprisoned on 16 different occasions and spent a total of six years in jail. Of these, I spent 18 months in solitary confinement."

The saddest aspect was that he missed the births of his two daughters, he said. "It was a tough reminder of a fundamental truth… that the freedom of the individual should not be destroyed at the whim of an over-mighty state." The remark, predictability, sent the Tory conference into ovation overdrive. But then Nasheed knows how to work a crowd, if nothing else.

In 2005, Nasheed fled the Maldives to Britain. You could "always talk to a western government about democracy", he said. He returned to his homeland after a few months, however, and in 2008 stood against Gayoom – then Asia's longest serving president – in the Maldives first ever democratic elections. Nashood won, with 54% of the votes.

He has since shown a striking sureness of action, though his short reign has not been without its critics. His remarks in Manchester last week, aimed to gee along his centre-right allies, together with his plans for underwater cabinet meetings and for moving the entire population to a promised land free of the threat of inundation, have led to accusations that he is a little light on political substance and too gimmicky for his own good.

Nasheed is scaring off investors, say opponents who include his predecessor, Gayoom. "This man is so hellbent on hogging the media limelight that he is forgetting to do his job, which is to run the country," said a spokesman for the former president.

Such criticism reeks of sour grapes, of course. Nevertheless, it is questionable just how far Nasheed can go for his country. Just who will sell him the land where he can build his New Maldives? And just what good will it do to make his nation carbon-neutral? Providing answers to these questions will not be easy, though in many ways they distract from the real purpose of Nasheed's plans.

We are all Maldivians, he argues. Every nation on the planet is threatened today by global warming. The Maldives and its inhabitants just happen to be first in line for the great calamity when it arrives. They may survive more than 100 years, of course, if rises in sea level remain modest. However, the oceans will continue to rise throughout next century and probably the one after it, scientists warn. The islands will therefore have to face their watery fate either in the 21st century or the 22nd, or even in the 23rd.

The actions of Mohamed Nasheed are therefore aimed at stimulating action by the west in the hope his country can reap some collateral benefit when a programme for dealing effectively with climate change is eventually hammered out. As he says: "If scientists are not able to save the Maldives, then they won't be able to save the world."


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Maldives cabinet to go underwater

The government of the Maldives is to hold a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the threat of global warming.

President Mohamed Nasheed and his cabinet will sign a document during the 17 October dive, calling for global cuts in carbon emissions.

An adviser to the president told the BBC the dive was "a bit of fun" but the cabinet intended to send a serious message about rising sea levels.

The low-lying island nation says it faces being wiped out if oceans rise.

The adviser, who asked not to be named, said ministers would communicate during the meeting using hand signals and waterproof boards and pens.

"Obviously the hand signals that divers can use are limited, so the amount of work the cabinet are going to get done will be limited," he said.

"But they will call on all nations - rich and poor, developed and developing - to take climate change seriously."

All cabinet members bar one - who has a medical condition that rules out diving - have been in training at a military base on one of the country's many islands.

Mr Nasheed, who is already a qualified diver, will also hold a press conference in the water.

While underwater, the government will sign a document ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, calling on all nations to cut down their carbon emissions.

World leaders at the summit are aiming to create a new agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

'Friendly' sharks

The dive is being held to mark the 350 International Day of Climate Change Action on 24 October.

The day's organisers say they want to highlight the risks of rising carbon in the atmosphere and encourage world leaders to commit to reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million.

That is the amount some scientists say is the safe upper limit to avoid irreparable damage to the environment.

Some 80% of the Maldives archipelago is less than a metre above sea level and is extremely vulnerable to any rise in sea levels as a result of global warming melting the polar ice caps.

Officials say that by the time the Maldives feels the full effect of climate change, it will be too late to save other countries.

Mr Nasheed has warned that the entire nation may have to find a new home if the oceans rise as predicted by the UN.

The president's adviser told the BBC that although the country's government was almost all going to be underwater at the same time, there was no real danger.

Each minister will be accompanied by a diving instructor and a military minder and the local sharks were "friendly", he said.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Israel and Maldives move to normalize relations

As a first step, cooperation agreements were signed in the fields of tourism, health, and education and culture.

On Thursday, September 24, in New York, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman and his counterpart from the Republic of Maldives signed three cooperation agreements in the fields of tourism, health, and education and culture.

Bilateral ties between the two countries have been put on hold for several years, and these agreements are considered a first step towards normalizing the relationship.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Maldives urges UN Member States to take critical action to combat climate change

The President of the Maldives implored world leaders gathered at the United Nations to urgently help the group of islands he governs in the middle of the Indian Ocean fight the menace of global warming, in a message to the General Assembly today.

“The threats posed to the Maldives from climate change are well-known,” President Mohamed Nasheed told the second day of the Assembly’s annual high-level debate at UN Headquarters in New York.

As beaches are lost to rising seas, houses to storm surges, jobs as fish stocks dwindle, and lives lost to more frequent extreme weather events, the scattering of islands becomes harder and harder to govern “until a point is reached when we must consider abandoning our homeland,” said Mr. Nasheed.

Calling on world leaders “to protect the future of front-line countries like the Maldives,” he said an ambitious new treaty on greenhouse gas reductions must be reached at December’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, which seeks to limit average global temperature increases to less than 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.

“To do otherwise would be to sign the death warrant for the 300,000 Maldivians,” stressed Mr. Nasheed.

“But, the Maldives is determined to do what we can to survive,” he said referring to the archipelago’s commitment to be the first carbon-neutral country in 10 years time.

“In order to do that, we are determined to formulate a survival-kit, a carbon-neutral manual that would enable others to replicate in order that all of us together might just about save ourselves from climate catastrophe.”

Mr. Nasheed also hoped to invite some of the States most affected by climate change to the Maldives this November to “reinforce our determination to leave no stone unturned to ensure our survival.”

In addition, he said that the nascent democracy, which held its first ever multi-party presidential elections last year needed help from Member States in consolidating democracy and establishing a secure, prosperous and equitable society for the country.

Mr. Nasheed said he was thankful to be the first democratically-elected President of the Maldives to attend the General Assembly debate, many of which in the past he had spent bound up in a cell for his beliefs about freedom.