Saturday, June 27, 2009

South Asia’s ‘Historic Elections’ May Spur Economic Integration

South Asia’s “historic elections” in the past 18 months have advanced democracy in the region and may spur economic integration, said Sheel Kant Sharma, secretary general of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

The South Asian grouping, called Saarc, which includes India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives and Bhutan, has struggled to give a boost to the free- trade pact they adopted in 2004. Trade between Saarc members is 5 percent of the countries’ total, compared with 55 percent among European Union nations, according to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

“There is democracy everywhere in South Asia now and so the confluence increases at overall policy levels,” Sharma said in an interview at the Saarc headquarters in Kathmandu, Nepal, on June 24. “All the countries are wedded to the principle of growing together.”

Since last year, Nepal ended its 240-year-old monarchy, the Maldives overthrew Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year regime, Pakistan got a new government after almost a decade’s reign by coup leader Pervez Musharraf and Bangladesh held national polls in December for the first time since 2001. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh won re-election in May.

Even though trade in the region has been frustrated by hostility between nuclear weapons-armed India and Pakistan, the two governments have pledged to restart peace talks by next month. Saarc members are also working on a plan to cut non- tariff barriers, improve transport connectivity and reduce their “sensitive list” -- items that are banned from trading -- by at least 25 percent by the end of the year, Sharma said.

‘Stumbling Block’

“There is an attempt to get the economic agenda going in Saarc,” said N. Bhaskara Rao, chairman of the Center for Media Studies in New Delhi. “But bilateral problems between India and Pakistan and unrest within some member states will be a stumbling block.”

Saarc was established in 1985 to improve livelihoods in a region that is home to half the world’s poor. After 24 years, the nations in Saarc, where a quarter of the world’s population lives, contribute less than 2 percent to global commerce.

Economic progress in South Asia has suffered because of the rivalry between India and Pakistan, which account for four- fifths of the region’s $1.3 billion economy. India accuses Pakistan of supporting armed extremists in Jammu and Kashmir, its only Muslim-dominated state. Pakistan denies it and says it offers only moral support to separatists.

Peace Talks

India’s Prime Minister Singh said June 17 that peace talks with Pakistan may start by July. Pakistan’s foreign office said June 25 that talks between the two sides were “unavoidable” for “durable” peace in the region. Talks between the two sides were stalled following the Nov. 26-29 attacks in India’s financial capital of Mumbai that killed 166 people. India blamed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba for carrying out the assault.

Saarc members also face internal problems. Pakistan and Afghanistan are grappling with the growing influence of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. In Nepal, political chaos has flared again as Maoist supporters staged nationwide demonstrations after their leader Puspa Kamal Dahal resigned as prime minister last month.

“As part of the political process, there have been differences in Nepal, but they are trying to sort them out within the political system,” said Sharma. “In Pakistan, the radicals were beaten in the elections and what came forward was a democratic government.”

Tamil Tigers

Similarly in Bangladesh, elections heralded a new government, “which is very reassuring,” Sharma said. In the Maldives, the long incumbency of the previous administration “led to popular discontent” and that has changed, while Sri Lanka has been able to deal with its problems after defeating the Tamil Tiger rebels, the secretary general added.

“I would view the electoral developments in the region as positive and an agent for change,” Sharma said.

He said member countries are working to harmonize customs- clearing procedures and have backed plans to put consignments originating in Saarc countries and destined for other Saarc nations on a fast track in terms of time taken for clearance.

Saarc has also identified developing ten regional road corridors, five railway corridors, two inland waterway corridors, ten maritime corridors and three aviation gateways to improve transport links in the region, Sharma said.

The New Delhi-based Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry said bolstering democracy across South Asia would give a fillip to Saarc, and that if tariffs were slashed, intra-regional trade could rise by as much as four times to $100 billion in five years.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Maldivian filmmaker has SRK on her wish-list

Maldivian filmmaker Fathimath Nahula, whose film Youssuf kick-starts the four-day South Asian Film Festival (SAFF) on Friday, has come to India with two things on her wish-list.

First, to see her film about the challenges of a deaf and dumb boy set the ball rolling. Second, to meet Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

"I really hope to meet him [Shah Rukh Khan]. Can someone arrange it for me?" Fathimath asked.

"While the other two Khans [Salman and Aamir] are popular in the Maldives, Shah Rukh is the biggest sensation," said Fathimath, whose most recent film Yousuf has been pegged as the highest revenue grosser in the Maldives.

Speaking about Yousuf, she said the 173-minute film underlined the steely determination of a deaf and dumb boy and his right to live in normalcy along with the rest.

"We received a terrific response in Maldives. But the film's theme is universal. We are sure it will strike a chord with the viewers here," Fathimath said.

She said films from both countries were similar on several counts.

"Most of our mainstream films are musicals, too, and a lot of our films have a romantic storyline, like the ones in India," Fathimath said.

Hassan Sinar, producer of Yousuf who accompanied Fathimath to Goa, said the film industry in Maldives was years behind India as far as the technical aspect of filmmaking was concerned.

"Technically we are not so qualified. But we are picking up now. It's a relatively new industry in Maldives. We are making an average of five to six films a year back home. Nothing compared to the film industry here," Sinar said.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

'Huge' oil terminal planned for Maldives

Maldives National Oil Company (MNOC) is planning to build a 6-million cubic metres (m³) onshore oil terminal on the one of the Maldive islands.

The crude and petroleum terminal is being planned on 20 hectares of land at a total investment of $150 million, according to MNOC's Managing Director Ahmed Muneez.

About 75% of the storage capacity will be dedicated to storing crude oil while the remaining 25% will be for clean and bunker products, said Muneez.

The terminal will have either two jetties or two Single Buoy Moorings (SBM), coupled with full blending facilities, Muneez told participants at a bunker course organised by August Energy in Singapore.

Construction work on the terminal is expected to start towards the end of this year and could take one and a half years to complete, Muneez told Bunkerworld.

Five islands have been shortlisted by MNOC for the project.

MNOC is currently inviting international fuel oil traders to commit to lease agreements of the storage capacity for the medium-term, he said.

''We're still scouting for partners,'' he said. ''The storage capacity will be able to sell refined products to regional markets to take advantage of arbitrage and trading plays.''

The twenty-six atolls of Maldives encompass a territory featuring 1190 islands, of which 202 islands are inhabited.

The archipelago is about 450 kilometres (km) southwest of India and 700 km west of Sri Lanka. It is known for its scenic beaches and high-end tourist resorts.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Look forward with fear as global warming threatens little nations

The message coming out of the UN is brutally simple: the developing world is being called upon to pay for most of the sins of the industrialized world.

The luxurious life styles of the rich, the carbon dioxide emissions from burning petroleum in gas-guzzling vehicles, and the gradual degradation of the earth's environment have triggered a devastating phenomenon: global warming.

"Climate change may be one of the biggest threats faced by mankind," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned last week

By next year, more than 50 million people worldwide are expected to be displaced -- categorized as environmental refugees-- because of rising sea levels, desertification and floods.

"There are well-founded fears that the number of people fleeing untenable environmental conditions may grow expontentially as the world experiences the effects of climate change and other phenomena," warns Janos Bogardi, director of the UN University's Institute for Environment and Human Security.

China, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya are in danger of losing thousands of square kilometres of desert and farmlands due to desertification.

The World Bank says the Yemeni capital of Sana'a has doubled its population since 1962, currently standing at over 900,000. But the acquifer providing water is falling six metres a year, and may run dry by 2010.

New Zealand has offered to provide safe haven to about 11,600 citizens of the low lying Pacific island of Tuvalu -- if and when that country is overwhelmed by sea level rise.

Last week the General Assembly, the highest policy making body at the United Nations, turned its attention to climate change and renewable energy. The meeting was a precursor to a major international conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December.

But delegates were treated to a rare spectacle of a tiny island nation battling global warming -- even though it played no significant role in causing it-- warning about the dangers of climate change.
The Maldives, which is threatened with extinction due to rising sea levels, is living on borrowed time -- and on outright grants.

Faced with the threat of being wiped off the face of the earth, the island nation is fighting back to stay alive.
The Maldivian Vice President Mohamed Waheed pointed out that the average height of the country's 2,000 tropical islands was a mere 1.5 metres above sea level making them highly vulnerable to rising sea levels.

But he said the Maldives was shoring up its defences in its most populous islands. A sea wall built around Male, which protected the country from the 2004 tsunami, had cost $60 million: a tidy sum compared with the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) of about $1 billion.

The funding for the project came as outright grants from Japan, a traditional aid donor to the Maldives.
Since every one of its 2,000 islands cannot be protected by costly sea walls, the government has been encouraging inhabitants to move to larger and safer islands.

But there is strong resistance, says Waheed, because most of the inhabitants want to live and die in a land where their ancestors were buried. At least one luxury resort, with a seven star rating, has already gone carbon neutral.

It is using deep-sea water to cool its air conditioning units and turning its organic waste into fertilizer.
Asked why the Maldives, which is hardly responsible for greenhouse gas emissions would bother to go carbon neutral, Waheed said the country's answer was: "the time has come for global leadership."
And that leadership is being offered by the Maldives.

Addressing the General Assembly last week, Ban Ki-moon cited several examples of countries undergoing dramatic transformations of their global energy markets.

During the oil crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Iceland was completely dependent on gasoline supplies. But today it generates virtually all its energy from geothermal and hydro-electricity.

A country that has been devastated by the global financial crisis, Iceland is far ahead of most Western nations in the race for a cleaner environment. Denmark has been described as another pioneer of carbon neutrality while Brazil has shown its potential for biomass as fuel.

As the world's leading producer of photovoltaic cell, China has doubled its windpower capacity five years in a row. "The green economy is the wave of the future," says the secretary-general. But how many will heed his advice?


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Global Downturn Impacts Mauritius and Maldives

The luxury island destinations of Mauritius and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, both of which rely heavily on tourism from European markets, have been negatively impacted by the global downturn.

According to the latest data from STR Global, both destinations experienced occupancy drops for the first four months of the year, as their main European source markets were hit by recession, falling employment and declining consumer confidence.

Mauritius and the Maldives are renowned for their upscale to luxury image, which is well-represented in their hotel offering. STR Global tracks the performance of

Whilst occupancy levels, at the 23 hotels in Mauritius and 17 hotels in the Maldives that STR tracks, declined, average room rates increased slightly when measured in local currency.

Mauritius’s occupancy fell 16 percentage points to 62.5%, compared to the Maldives’ 15.1-percentage points decline to 70.5% for January through April 2009.

Average room rates grew 2.8% and 6.9% in Mauritius and Maldives, respectively. Unfortunately, the rate increases could not hold up the revenue per available room performances, which declined 18% in Mauritius and 12% in the Maldives.

Comparing the ADR results in euro terms, the currency used by the majority of visitors to both islands, a different picture emerges.

Maldives took the top spot with an increase of 26% to €704, compared to Mauritius’s 3% decrease to €184 for the first four months of this year.

The currency fluctuation and weakening Euro against the Maldivian-Rufiyaas made Maldives more expensive to its European clientele. The Maldives had an ADR premium of €520 over Mauritius for year-to-April 2009 compared to the same period last year.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Sri Lanka and Maldives agree on intelligence sharing

Sri Lanka and the Maldives have reached agreement to share intelligence and exchange information on the flow of funds that may be linked to terrorist activities. This understanding emerged following discussions between Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and the visiting Maldivian President, H.E. Mohamed Nasheed in Colombo today (19 June 2009). The Maldivian dignitary arrived last evening on a brief visit to Sri Lanka, during which he will also be meeting President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Anuradhapura today. At the outset of the bilateral talks, President Nasheed conveyed his warmest congratulations to the Government of Sri Lanka on successfully ending the internal conflict and defeating terrorism in the country. He informed Minister Bogollagama that he had explained to world leaders whom he had met in the recent past, the Maldivian Government’s strong support for the action taken by Sri Lanka to eliminate terrorism. He noted that a prosperous and strong Sri Lanka is beneficial to the Maldives. Noting that Sri Lankan companies held substantial investments in the Maldives, the President invited more companies to invest in his country, adding that the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka would encourage greater economic cooperation between the two countries.

Minister Bogollagama, welcoming the Maldivian leader, thanked him for the message of felicitation which he had sent President Rajapaksa immediately upon the Government’s historic victory over terrorism last month. He informed the Maldivian President that Sri Lanka is turning a new page in its history, with a focus on launching a vibrant economic agenda which would bring prosperity for all the people in the island. The true potential for economic growth and development would then be realized.

Responding to a query by the Maldivian President, the Foreign Minister acknowledged that although the LTTE leadership and its military capability had been annihilated within Sri Lanka, its international terror network remains largely intact. It was important that there be greater international cooperation to dismantle this network and the overseas assets of the LTTE and its front organizations be frozen, to prevent funds generated from such assets being diverted for various nefarious and illicit activities, including narcotics trafficking, human smuggling, money laundering etc. In this context, President Nasheed and Minister Bogollagama agreed that it would be mutually beneficial if both countries entered into a formal agreement under which their intelligence agencies would be able to share information and cooperate more closely.

Senior officials of the Maldivian Government and the Maldivian High Commissioner in Colombo, Ali Hussain Didi were present on the Maldivian delegation, while senior officials of the Foreign Ministry attended the discussion from the Sri Lankan side.


Vice President meets with the US Secretary of State

Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed has, yesterday, met with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Speaking at the meeting, Secretary Clinton said that the United States would extend its assistance to the Maldives to in its efforts to consolidate and strengthen democracy.

Vice President Dr Waheed said that the US and the Maldives had developed excellent bilateral relations and expressed his confidence that these relations would continue to grow over the years. He also thanked the US Government for the assistance and support given to the Maldives in developmental efforts.

Dr Waheed also briefed Secretary Clinton on issues of concern to the Maldives such as consolidation of democracy, the effects of climate change in the Maldives and the country’s plan to go carbon neutral.

Mrs Clinton congratulated the Maldives on its plan to go carbon neutral. She also said that the United States would assist the Maldives in the area of counternarcotics.

Separately, Vice President Dr Waheed also met with US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian and Central Asian Affairs, Mr Robert Blake. He was previously the US Ambassador to the Maldives. The Vice President congratulated Mr Blake on his appointment to the new post.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tourism industry takes travel advisory in its stride

The Union health ministry’s advisory urging travellers to defer their foreign travel plans for the time being till swine flu is globally brought under control, has been welcomed by the travel and tourism fraternity despite the financial implications.

“Till yesterday, there was no real push for cancellations. However, following the statement of the ministry, we have seen movement and a drop of 10-15% forecast over the coming days,” said Rajinder Rai, president, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI). He added that the industry, which has also been impacted by the economic slowdown, was looking forward to April-July season that is the peak outbound season for signs of recovery, though with growth figures at or below last year. Around 8 million Indians travel abroad every year. Some of the most frequented countries Indians travel to include US, Europe, Far East, Egypt, Turkey, Maldives and Mauritius.

Says, Madhavan Menon, managing director, Thomas Cook India, “Yes, we have seen some cancellations but is less than 10%. However, in a year when volumes are anyway low, a single booking lost is felt badly.”

None of the countries, including the United States (US), from where it started, have come up with a travel advisory on the same, despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) directing its member nations and declaring a swine flu pandemic, the first global flu epidemic in 41 years. Last Thursday, WHO in a statement sent to member countries had said that it is raising the pandemic alert level from phase 5 to 6, meaning that a global outbreak of swine flu has begun. The said move was undertaken as infections climbed in the US, Europe, Australia, South America and elsewhere.

Indicating that WHO is not recommending travel restrictions related to the outbreak of the influenza A(H1N1) virus, Arup Sen, executive director, Cox & Kings India Limited, said, “Customers are enquiring with us on the situation in countries that they intend travelling and we give them an idea based on the inputs we get from these locations. However, no one has called yet to cancel trips. We are coming to the end of the outbound season and it is business as usual.”

“There is a need to disseminate information regarding the disease and ramping up of precautionary measures at the gateways to the country,” said PR Srinivas, industry lead, tourism, hospitality and leisure, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Private Ltd.

Meanwhile, hoteliers in the country are also on guard and facing the brunt. Talking to Fe, Pascal Dupuis, general manager, The Leela Kempinski Goa, said, “Our staff is aware of Swine flu and ready to handle any emergencies. We are asking travellers about the last destination they visited and are watchful.”

Rajeev Menon, area vice-president, India, Malaysia, Maldives and Pakistan, Marriott International Inc said, “There has been a marginal impact on our business due to the swine flu. Some cancellations have happened though are predominately in the corporate travel coming in from US and some Asian countries.”


4th South Asian Film Festival in Panaji from June 26th

The 4th South Asian Film Festival will start in the coastal state from June 26, chief minister Digamber Kamat said on Wednesday.

The four-day-long festival would be a bouquet of 60 movies from south Asian countries, Kamat said announcing the festival programme in Panaji.

A special screening of 12 Iranian movies would be held during the SAFF, organized by South Asia Foundation, and supported by state government run Entertainment Society of Goa and Kala Academy, the chief minister, accompanied by assembly Speaker Pratapsingh Rane, said.

Veteran filmmakers Mahesh Bhatt, Pankaj Parashar, Pooja Bhatt, SAFF's secretary general Rahul Barua and organizing chairman Jitendra Deshprabhu were also present at the press conference.

Kamat said the films from eight south Asian countries namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka would be screened during the festival.


Vice President meets with officials of Environmental Protection Agency of USA

As part of his tour to the United States of America, Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed has discussed with the officials of Environmental Protection Agency on the impact of climate change in the Maldives.

At the meeting, the Vice President briefed the officials on the vulnerability of the Maldive islands to climate change.

Further discussions were held on the government’s plan to become world’s first carbon neutral country and how the agency could help the Maldives in this endeavour. It was noted that a team from the agency could visit the Maldives to do a research on the environmental problems in the Maldives


President Nasheed meets with the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament

President Nasheed has today called upon the Speaker of the Swedish parliament, the Hon. Per Westerberg. The meeting was held in the Speaker's Chambers of the parliament.

The Speaker welcomed the President to Sweden and to the parliament, and congratulated the President on his success in promoting democracy and good governance in the Maldives. He also noted the important role the Maldives has been playing in the lead up to Copenhagen, and briefed the President on the importance that Sweden attached to the success of the climate negotiations in Copenhagen.

Speaking at the meeting, President Nasheed said that as Sweden would be holding the Presidency of the European Union at the climate conference in Copenhagen, he hoped that the strong emphasis Sweden has on conservation would make a vital contribution to the outcome of the talks.

Further, the President said that time was running out and that effective measures needed to be taken to cut down greenhouse gas emissions and also contribute to adaptation. The President said that Kyoto represented a list of things that countries were not supposed to do and perhaps the emphasis needs to shift to a list of things that countries can do, particularly to promote renewable energy technologies.

Moreover, the President said that sound environmental policies required good governance and therefore promotion of democracy would also contribute to greener policies, because people power would be mobilised behind the long term interest of conservation.

The President also expressed interest in promoting exchanges and collaboration between parliamentarians of Sweden and the Maldives and noted the important contribution such co-operation can make for better understanding and consolidation of democracy in the Maldives.

Speaker Westerberg concurred on the importance of both mitigation and adaptation, and agreed that democracy and sustainable development were very closely inter-related. He also reciprocated the President's interest in developing collaboration between the parliamentarians of the two countries.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Finalists Decided at the SriLankan Airlines Pro in the Maldives

An exciting day of surfing in the Maldives at the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) PRIME Six Star rated World Qualifying Series (WQS) Sri Lankan Airlines Pro sees just eight surfing remaining in the event which will finish tomorrow in great conditions at Pasta Point.

Pat Gudauskas (USA/Cal) continued his huge run in this event by defeating ASP veteran Cory Lopez in the opening heat of the day.

"I had to forget the excitement of yesterdays heat win and focus on the job ahead and that's to try and win this event" said Gudauskas who created history in his previous heat when he executed what is believed to be the first ever rodeo clown manoeuvre in competitive surfing.

"I'm excited to be through to the final eight surfers and I'm hungry for the win as I'm sure all the other seven surfers are!" added Gudauskas.

Romain Cloitre (France/Reunion Island) continues to be the quiet achiever here in the Maldives and today he was very impressive taking a tightly contested heat over Shaun Gossman (Australia).

The smooth styled 20 year old who bases himself equally between Reunion Island and Hossegor in France has already achieved his best ever performance here in a Prime rated ASP WQS event.

"Last year I was eliminated in my very first heat here so I'm just really pleased to keep progressing through my heats this year" said Cloitre.

"I feel well suited to this wave and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's final day."

While both ASP tour veterans in Cory Lopez and Travis Logie (South Africa) were eliminated today, exciting youngsters Jadson Andre (Brazil) and Owen Wright (Australia) advanced to the quarter finals.

Andre's heat win over Travis Logie was the tightest heat of the day. The 19 year old Brazilian trailed throughout the heat and looked rattled when he uncharacteristically fell on a huge aerial move mid heat.

"That was the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in a contest" said Andre.

I had completed the aerial, landed well and was looking to ride it out but my leash actually got caught on my ring on my finger and that has dragged me off my board, I felt it rip at my finger and it has actually ripped into my skin, unbelievable."

Despite that mistake, Andre showed his professionalism by taking a wave in the final minute, nailing an opening major air reverse and scoring the required 6.33 to take the win.

The final two heats of the day saw the conditions clean up and the swells pulse and the days highest heat and wave scores were registered by Leigh Sedley (Australia) and Austin Ware (USA).

Sedley's 14.5 heat score was the day's highest and he goes into tomorrow's final day with confidence.

"I'm feeling great here, loving the waves and my surfing and boards feel really good so I'm going into tomorrow focused on winning - I believe I can" said Sedley.

Sedley will face Austin Ware (USA) in the fourth quarter final tomorrow. Ware scored the days highest wave score of an 8.5 on his way to defeating Drew Courtney.

Tomorrow will be the final day and is expected to deliver the best waves of the event so far.
Follow this event live at

Quarter Final Heat Draw:

Heat 1: Pat Gudauskas (USA), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA)
Heat 2: Romaine Cloitre (FRA), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS), Daniel Ross (AUS)
Heat 4: Leigh Sedley (AUS), Austin Ware (USA)

SriLankan Airlines Pro 2009 is made possible thanks to the following sponsors: SriLankan Airlines, John Keells Group, Chaaya Island - Dhonveli, Atoll Travel, Atoll Adventures, Ocean & Earth International, Dhiraagu, Maldives Tourism & Promotions Board, ASP Australasia.

ASP Australasia as the event managers will deliver a quality live Webcast along with Television News Feeds, complimentary Digital Images for newspapers and websites, Web highlight packages and a dedicated 30 minute international television program.


Maldives: UAE Foreign Minister pays a courtesy call on the President

The Foreign Minister of UAE, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan has paid a courtesy call on President Mohamed Nasheed today.

At the meeting, discussions were focused on a number of issues of interest to both countries covering economic and commercial matters as well as cooperation in areas such as education, healthcare and renewable energy.

President Nasheed noted the UAE-Maldives friendly relations and underscored strengthening them in all areas.

He also briefed the Minister on the Maldives’ reform process and the government’s economic policy. He further explored the possibility of UAE assistance to improve the Maldives’ economy.

Sheikh Al Nahyan thanked the President and the government, for the warm welcome and generous hospitality that was accorded to him and to the members of his delegation.

He also noted the UAE and the Maldives have shared good bilateral relations and expressed his confidence that these relations would enhance during the tenure of President Nasheed.

Speaking further, Sheikh Al Nahyan said he understood there were lots of challenges to the development of the Maldives. However, he said that during his short visit to the Maldives, he has come to know that there were lots of opportunities too.

The Minister assured the President that the UAE would continue its support and cooperation to the Maldives.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Who's Ready For The Best Western Madoogali?

Because it's coming soon! It's just been announced that Best Western, they of continental breakfasts and drive-up motor lodges, will open their first Maldives property this September.

Set about 50 miles west of Male, the Maldives' capital, the island of Madoogali will be dedicated to the 56 palm-thatched chalets of the resort and spa. According to the press release, it will also include "a refined restaurant, a spa, a dive center and numerous water sport activities, including windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, water-skiing, catamarans and pedalòs." This doesn't sound like the Best Western we know.

While no estimated room rates have been released, we doubt that they'll be anything near the $700+ a night of the W Maldives Retreat. For those dreaming of a relatively affordable Maldives vacation, the Best Western could be a great option. Or, how about all of us Maldives-fanatics put our money together to buy a little island for ourselves? Neighboring Dhinnolhufinolhu looks promising, but then we'd have to write that on our envelopes all the time.


Maldives: good for beginner divers?

I would like my two teenage sons to learn to dive. Are the Maldives a good place for this? And if so, could you suggest a hotel that would be good for us? Jim Marshall, Harrow

Sunday Times travel expert Richard Green responds: The Maldives is one of the world’s top dive spots, where a stunning variety of fish swirl around thousands of sheltered reefs, where the water is clear and warm year-round, and there’s a very high standard of dive centre and tuition. Plus its shallow reef-protected lagoons are great places for a beginners’ first dive.

And the hotels aren’t bad either. Take the Kandooma island resort for example. It occupies a 32-acre island surrounded by reefs and has a strong reputation for its dive school. Accommodation is villa style, nicely spaced out, and there are four restaurants to choose from.

Hayes & Jarvis has a week here from £1,399pp in July, with flights from Heathrow to Male with SriLankan Airlines, speedboat transfer, and B&B accommodation in two garden villas. Diving is paid for locally, at the smart Euro Divers facility, where the PADI Open Water Diver course is £330pp. British Airways starts direct flights to Male from Gatwick in October, when a week at the Kandooma will cost from £1,239pp.

If you prefer an all-inclusive package, then try Lily Beach in the South Ari Atoll, from £2,249pp in July, also through Hayes & Jarvis, with flights and transfers as above. Ocean-Pro run the dive centre and charge £455pp for PADI Open Water Diver course.

Or a seven-night stay at the super-luxury Constance Halaveli Resort in a Beach Villa, costs from £1,958pp, with SriLankan flights and B&B accommodation in a Beach Villa, and seaplane transfers, through Turquoise Holidays. The PADI dive course £521pp.

Other companies featuring learn-to-dive holidays in the Maldives include Scuba Travel, Regal Dive, or Tropic Breeze.


Maldives plans Middle East focus

The Republic of Maldives intends to focus on the Middle East in an overhaul of its tourism strategy.

Republic of Maldives Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture Dr. Ahmed Ali Sawad said the aim was to make the new democratic system a success in the global market and part of that was through tourism.

“For the tourism sector I think the Maldives is known throughout the world as a luxury destination and we have a lot of tourist products,” Sawad said.

“Our exercise is to focus on areas where we have not had a strong presence, particularly the Middle East and India so the new government policy is to strengthen those ties.”

The new government is looking to expand and diversify the capacity over the next five to six years, with an additional 11,000 beds on the current stock of 20,000, according to Sawad.

“We realised the boom happened in the late 80s and 90s based on a strong mid-market tourism and it expanded into the high-end — it upgraded,” he said.

“In the industry right now we are saying there is a lot of room for both these segments and we are putting a lot of emphasis into that mid-market product, while strengthening access for our key markets.”


On A Mission's Mitch Surman gets Oxbow wild card entry

Sunshine Coast surfer, Mitch Surman powers along as a wild card entry into the Oxbow World Longboard Tour 2009 to be held at the exotic location, in the Maldives. Surman recently took out the double at the Reef2beach Longboard classic, winning the junior and Open Classic with some radical maneuvers.

When asked about his wild card entry Surman says “I was pretty stoked about getting a wild card into the world titles, as it’s a lifetime opportunity –I’m only eighteen so it will be a big confidence booster to surf against the world’s best” Ross McInnes, from ON A MISSION says “Surman deserves it; he is a stylish surfer with huge potential. We wish him the best in the Maldives”

The Oxbow world tour commences October 26 in the Maldives with a new format that will bring together 32 qualified Longboarders including two wild cards.

About ON A MISSION: ON A MISSION was founded by surfers for surfers. Legends such as the Malloy brothers, Benji Weatherly, Ross Williams and Taylor Knox, together with a new breed of ON A MISSION recruits including Aussies Bede Durbidge, Mitch Coleborn, Jay Davies, Dru Adler and Josh Dowthwaite are all influencing the design process to ensure optimal rider performance.

ON A MISSION are the pioneers of the modern day traction pad and they continue to design and develop superior traction using lighter and thinner EVA to provide every surfer with maximum underfoot grip and board control.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Maldives sets up zones to protect whale sharks

The Maldives has marked three sea protected areas that limit fishing and diving to safeguard rare whale sharks in waters around the islands, the government said Tuesday.

Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam announced the protected zones to mark the World Ocean Day, which fell Monday. The zones will have only limited fishing, while strict guidelines apply to diving and snorkeling.

Speed limits will be imposed on boats to prevent lacerations on the shark, and waste management programs will be initiated in surrounding islands to stop pollution, a government statement said.

"The marine environment is the bedrock of our economy, supporting our largest industries, tourism and fisheries. Not only will this initiative protect whale sharks, but also other mega fauna including manta rays and reef sharks," the statement quoted Aslam as saying.

Whale sharks _ the world's largest fish species _ are listed as a threatened species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the world's largest conservation network.

Considered harmless, the whale shark can live up to 100 years and can grow to 46 feet (14 meters) long _ as long as a bus. It is normally found in parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Maldives Whale Shark Research Program has counted 120 whale sharks and said they could be seen throughout the year around the islands.

In March, the Indian Ocean archipelago banned reef shark hunting to bolster its tourism industry.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

First Shine Spa for Sheraton Opens in Maldives

Starwood’s latest spa endeavour, Shine Spa for Sheraton, has been unveiled to the world in the idyllic island paradise of the Maldives.

The Shine Spa for Sheraton at the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa is connected to the resort by an overwater jetty, Shine Spa for Sheraton is housed on its own island. There guests can be pampered with signature treatments that are influenced by local flavors and delivered in one of the spa’s 6 treatment rooms with inspiring Indian Ocean views, Separate Relaxation Pools for male and female guests, stream rooms and a post treatment Relaxation Room.

The new Shine signature treatments are specifically designed with local influences surrounding Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, while also highlighting modalities from locations along the Silk Route.

For example, the Ocean Massage mimics the fluid and flowing motion of waves bringing relaxation and rejuvenation to the body and mind. The Silk Route Collection presents treatments from the Orient, Thailand, India, the Middle East and Mediterranean regions.

“We are very proud to open the world’s first Shine Spa for Sheraton in this unspoiled paradise,” said General Manager Brian Segrave. “From the warm atmosphere to the welcoming people, everything our guests see and feel here was carefully chosen to help them relax, feel pampered and have fun while they are at it.”

The Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa opened its newly rebranded doors in December 2008. Significant enhancements to the resort include a new welcome pavilion and lobby environment, re-designed guest rooms and a revolutionary health and fitness programme.


Monday, June 8, 2009

SriLankan Airlines Pro Underway with 8 Round One Heats Completed

The 2009 Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) six star PRIME rated SriLankan Airlines Pro began at the famous Pasta Point in the Maldives today and the world's finest surfers wasted no time acclimatising and ripping into the fun 1m (3ft) surf.

Hawaiian Casey Brown opened the event impressively scoring both the days highest heat win (15.66 out of a possible 20) along with the highest wave score of an 8.83 (out of a possible 10) on a ride which saw him complete a series of powered critical turns along with a perfectly executed air reverse.

"It's always good to win through that round one heat, we've all travelled a long way to get here and you'd feel really down to lose out and be eliminated straight away so it's a relief" said Brown.

"It's such a fun event here, great free surfing waves in all directions and you just want to do well and enjoy the whole week."

While today's waves were not perfect there was plenty of scope for strong scores with the mechanical peeling point offering multiple sections for surfers to perform on.

Other heat winners to impress were former event champion Daniel Redman (South Africa), Portugal's Ruben Gonzalez, Rudy Palboom (South Africa), Christophe Allary (Reunion) and Alejo Muniz (Brazil).

Australia's Jack Perry summarized the feelings of most surfers here today after his strong heat win by saying, " I always have a great time here, we're competing in a really important event at the midpoint of the year but the atmosphere is just great, it's like we're all on holidays but a good result here means a lot to your ASP season so you have to remain focused."

"The waves today were nothing like as good as it can get but still they were a lot of fun and you can really perform in these conditions - the outlook is solid and if it gets like last year then we're surfing in amazingly perfect waves so fingers crossed!"

Strong afternoon winds saw event organizers finish the day early with just 8 heats completed and organizers will reconvene first thing tomorrow morning.

SriLankan Airlines Pro 2009 is made possible thanks to the following sponsors: SriLankan Airlines, John Keells Group, Chaaya Island - Dhonveli, Atoll Travel, Atoll Adventures, Ocean & Earth International, Dhiraagu, Maldives Tourism & Promotions Board, ASP Australasia.

ASP Australasia as the event managers will deliver a quality live Webcast along with Television News Feeds, complimentary Digital Images for newspapers and websites, Web highlight packages and a dedicated 30 minute international television program.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

25 students from SAARC countries awarded certificates

The certificate distribution ceremony of a documentary-making course was held at the South Asian Media School (SAMS) on Saturday where 25 students from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Maldives, Bhutan and Afghanistan were awarded certificates.

Addressing the ceremony, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Secretary General IA Rehman said the art of making documentaries had gained popularity after the World War-II and brought a realistic approach to the cinematic art. He said this art had lost importance in Pakistan as it had been reduced to merely shabby reels. However, he said, some people were trying to revive this art in the country. He said SAMS was doing a wonderful job by facilitating the students of the region in promoting this art.

GCU Vice Chancellor Dr Khalid Aftab congratulated the students for successfully completing the course at SAMS. He praised the subject and its treatment at the hands of the students during the making of various documentaries.

SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam said Pakistan-India tension had had an adverse impact on the SAMS activities. He urged the students to use analytical skills and practical knowledge of the subject instead of mere rhetoric.


A Banker’s Lot is not a Happy One

Islamic banking and finance cannot take off in countries like Indonesia, in high population and high poverty Muslim countries, unless the range of banking and financial instruments deployed are diversified to facilitate volume, says Terry Lacey.

The latest initiative of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), working jointly with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), to set up Asia’s first major multi-country Islamic infrastructure support fund is a good step forward. But in Indonesia and other Asian countries there are obstacles. Lack of access to finance is not the main problem. Projects are frequently blocked by lack of project preparation capacity, poor regulatory frameworks, lack of functioning deal-structuring models, bureaucracy and corruption.

The new Asian Islamic infrastructure fund will start at US$500 million, and then attract more funds, contributing sharia-compliant equity investments to projects in 12 Asian countries (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan).

There are several reasons why the initiative is welcome and timely.

First, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) have encouraged such initiatives, promoting South-South investment and trade, especially between Muslim countries and member states of OIC.

Second, with the Western banking and financial crisis and global liquidity shortage, this IDB-ADB strategic partnership opens access to Gulf and Islamic liquidity, whilst open to other contributions.

Third, Islamic banking and finance cannot take off in countries like Indonesia, in high population and high poverty Muslim countries, unless the range of banking and financial instruments deployed are diversified to facilitate volume, including bonds and targeting consumer lending, SMEs, private companies and infrastructure.

Robert van Zwieten, the director of ADB’s capital markets and financial sectors division commented that “In Indonesia, only 39 percent of urban dwellers have access to piped water, only 9.5 percent of roads in Afghanistan are paved and only 42 percent of Bangladesh’s population has access to electricity. “

But there are major obstacles to infrastructure projects. Although Malaysia has far better infrastructure and Islamic banking than most of the 12 target countries, the problems in Indonesia, despite its relative economic success, may be similar to some of the 12 target countries.

It comes down to three basic issues: lack of capacity in project preparation; lack of functional deal-structuring arrangements to help make projects viable and manageable backed by adapted regulatory frameworks; and problems of bureaucracy and corruption, especially affecting public-private partnerships.

In Indonesia previous government backed Infrastructure Investment Summits prioritizing public-private partnership projects were not very successful, with investors unimpressed by poor project preparation. Now ADB, Australia, Germany and others have worked with government upgrading project preparation capacity. But Indonesia still lacks pre-feasibility and feasibility study support to help launch and fast-track priority infrastructure projects.

The problem is also how to modernize deal structuring and joint venture design, and adapt regulatory frameworks to share risks and make projects bankable. Despite improvements to Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), implementation of Independent Power Producer (IPP) models has been slow and extension to Small Power Projects (SPPs) under 10 Mwe often impossible. The water sector is in a much worse position. There are almost no water projects without restructuring bankrupt and badly-managed host water authorities.

EU studies previously warned investors to avoid public-private partnership projects where state companies can propose joint ventures but control revenue streams. Corruption, and anti-corruption campaigns have slowed projects leaving development funds stuck in bonds and banks, alongside undisbursed budget and stimulus funds. An IDB-ADB task force is needed to shift this money to projects, using the new fund as a lever.

So the joint IDB-ADB initiative is really welcome. But the devil is going to be in the detail.

Despite 4.5 percent growth and economic successes, the big challenge for the next Indonesian government, probably to be led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono after elections on July 8th, will be reform of public administration. Across Asia the clock is ticking to get infrastructure projects moving and overcome bureaucratic obstacles.

A famous Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera included the chorus “A policeman´s lot is not a happy one”. Asia needs happy bankers, pushing their money out to infrastructure projects to help the people, instead of it being stuck in the bank, in case somebody steals it.

Terry Lacey is a development economist who writes from Jakarta on modernization in the Muslim world, investment and trade relations with the EU and Islamic banking.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Hussain Alifulhu: A brighter future in Dhuvaafaru, Maldives

More than four years after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, 48-year-old Hussain Alifulhu vividly remembers the events of the fateful day when "the sea swallowed Kandholhudhoo", an island in the Maldives' Raa Atoll.

He had been asleep and was awakened by uncomfortable heat as his house's cooling fan ground to a halt. There was a blackout. Being an electrician, he got up ready to rush to the island's power house and fix the problem.

But when he stepped outside, Hussain was shocked to see flood water reaching the doorstep. After ensuring that his family was safe at the island's mosque - where several other islanders had sought refuge - he rushed to the jetty to look for a boat that would evacuate them to another island. But by the time he got his family to the jetty, the boat was full.

Evacuation efforts

Boats from the nearby, lesser affected islands arrived a little while later, bolstering the evacuation efforts. Hussain and his family of ten were among the last to leave Kandholhudhoo.

They were taken to Ungoofaaru, also in Raa Atoll, where they would stay in temporary shelters for almost four years while the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) constructed a new island home for them on Dhuvaafaru.

Over that period, Hussain - like many other men - was at sea collecting sea cucumbers which he then sold to get an income. When he was not at sea, he would be fixing electrical problems at the temporary shelters. His skill and dedication led to him being of 13 community members selected and trained by the IFRC to operate and manage their future island's utilities.

Happily settled

Following their relocation in December 2008, Hussain and his family are happily settled in two houses that they received from the IFRC and have started to rebuild their lives. He says: "We are grateful to the IFRC for the quality houses they have built for less fortunate people like us. I would never have been able to build such houses myself."

As a trained operator, Hussain played a role in ensuring that the Dhuvaafaru island electricity supply system was in working condition before beneficiary families were moved in during December 2008. Initially they were employed by IFRC, but later he did the maintenance work on a voluntary basis.

He feels honoured to have worked as one of the electricity operators at the new island's power station. "I could not think of a better way to repay back IFRC's kindness than to work there for as long as they needed my services," he says.

Lifelong occupation

He hopes that the government will turn the operators' positions to full-time, salaried jobs so they can earn an income. But in the future he hopes to be able to open a workshop and restart his lifelong occupation as an electrician.

"I can't open my own workshop as I don't have any land, apart from the houses we got," he explains. "The government is yet to set aside space for such use."

Hussain sees a great future for Dhuvaafaru. He says: "I have a good feeling that this will be an ideal island, even better than it is now. But the new community needs to be patient because nothing will work as fast as the heart beats."


Dhuvaafaru, the rebirth of a community in the middle of the ocean

In the middle of the Indian Ocean, far away from the motorways that could transport building materials for 600 houses and all the infrastructure that goes with it, the Red Cross Red Crescent took on the challenge of re-establishing a community from scratch.

When the tsunami swept across the Maldives on 26 December 2006 it completely destroyed the island of Kandholhudhoo, leaving more than 3,600 people homeless. It was immediately clear that these families needed to rebuild their lives in a new and safer environment.

Following an extensive study the Maldives' National Disaster Management Centre identified the uninhabited island of Dhuvaafaru as the most suitable settlement location due to its topographical characteristics such as its comparatively high elevation, its size and its reef, which is essential for better protection against tidal surges.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) signed an agreement with the Government of Maldives in May 2005 to build a new community on Dhuvaafaru Island.

The IFRC has funded construction of 562 houses as well as other community infrastructure such as an administrative building, a pre-school, primary school and secondary school, an auditorium, water supply and sewage systems, a sports complex, roads, and a power supply system backed up with solar energy.

Discover more about this incredible project and the achievements of the Red Cross Red Crescent's tsunami operation:


Maldives: The Vice President begins a visit to the United States

Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed has departed Male, earlier this morning, on a visit to the United States.

During his visit, the Vice President will participate at a UN General Assembly meeting on renewable energy. The Vice President will also hold meetings with the American officials and private organisations to discuss issues including climate change and effective drug control strategies.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Corfu, Funchal and Maldives to join oneworld network

Three of the world's most popular holiday islands are lining up to join the network served by oneworld®, the leading quality global airline alliance, with Iberia Regional Air Nostrum launching flights to Corfu and Funchal in Europe. The launches of these two new routes was announced as the alliance's airlines added Benghazi and Bergen to the oneworld map.

Iberia Regional will fly to Corfu (which has the three-letter IATA code CFU) from both Madrid and Barcelona from 26 July throughout the peak summer season, to 6 September. From Madrid it will fly twice-weekly with a single weekly rotation from Barcelona.

It will serve Funchal (FNC) from both Bilbao and Valencia, with two round trips a week from both mainland gateways during the peak summer season, from 24 July to 6 September.


Online Pro Surfing Games linked to SriLankan Airlines Pro Maldives

With less than one week until the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) PRIME 6 star rated World Qualifying Series (WQS) 2009 SriLankan Airlines Pro begins in the magnificent Maldives Islands it's time online surf enthusiasts checked out and registered with the two online game linked to this event.

Go to the events official website at and follow the links to and to access these two online games.

Both games have detailed easy to follow instructions on how to play.

Like many sporting games, engages participants by choosing a team of surfers with points awarded according to performance while tackles the SriLankan Airlines Pro from an interactive wave riding perspective.

Play either or both and you'll at least feel a little bit like you are in paradise; picture and dream of the perfect peeling points, unbelievable 30 degree Celsius water temperatures, tropical climate where the temperature varies by barely a degree either side of 30 degrees and all set on the luxury Chaaya Island - Dhonveli.

Almost as good as being there in person, maybe!

An awesome field of 128 quality surfers from no less than 20 nations are now heading for the Maldives and expectations will be high that this year's event can begin where last years left off in perfect 2m surf at the famous Pasta Point.

Surfers will "warm-up" at Pasta Point on Dhonveli Island and they'll also sample the nearby perfection on offer at breaks like Sultans, Honkies, Lohefushi, Cokes and Chickens.

It's no wonder this event is a favourite with surfers on the ASP World Qualifying Tour as this is their equivalent of the Dream Tour.

SriLankan Airlines Pro 2009 is made possible thanks to the following sponsors: SriLankan Airlines, John Keells Group, Chaaya Island - Dhonveli, Atoll Travel, Atoll Adventures, Ocean & Earth International, Dhiraagu , Maldives Tourism & Promotions Board, ASP Australasia .

ASP Australasia as the event managers will deliver a quality live Webcast along with Television News Feeds, complimentary Digital Images for newspapers and websites, Web highlight packages and a dedicated 30 minute international television program.


Maldives 183rd Member of ILO

A communiqué released by the International Labour Organization, Colombo indicated that the Republic of Maldives has become the 183rd member State of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations agency that deals with work and workplace issues.

The membership came into force on 15 May 2009 when Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Republic of Maldives, submitted a letter to Juan Somavia, Director-General of the ILO, containing the formal acceptance by the Republic of Maldives of the obligations of the Constitution of the ILO. The Government will pay US$4,000 annually in membership fees. Work in the country will be organized via the ILO Office in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The communiqué indicated that Ms Sachiko Yamamoto, Regional Director, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific said that they are delighted with this positive development and warmly welcome the Republic of Maldives to the ILO and look forward to working closely with the government, workers’ and employers’ organizations to promote decent work for the people of the Republic of Maldives”.

The Maldivian archipelago consists of about 1,200 small low-lying islands, of which around 200 are inhabited and 87 are developed as resort islands. The population is about 299,000, of whom some 81,000 are migrant workers. The major generators of income and employment are tourism and fishing.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Leading by an achievable example

A promise that the Maldives will go carbon-neutral in 10 years is not just good for PR, says the country's president Mohamed Nasheed. In this week's Green Room, he argues that the goal sets an example for the developed world proving that a green country is not only practical, it is profitable.

Some people may find it ironic that the Maldives, which emits just a tiny proportion of global carbon dioxide emissions, has set the most ambitious carbon reduction goals of any nation on Earth. To some, it may seem even odder that the Maldives has made such stringent environmental targets when it is also a relatively poor, developing country.

Conventional wisdom dictates that small, developing nations such as the Maldives should refuse to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. This wisdom suggests that we should be lobbying for permits to pollute more, while apportioning blame for climate change squarely on the shoulders of big, industrialised nations.

But I am sceptical of this conventional wisdom, and of finger-pointing at the West, for neither of these policy positions does anything to help solve the climate crisis.

And what a crisis climate change is. Scientists meeting in Copenhagen earlier this year warned that Arctic ice is melting quicker than anyone previously imagined possible.

Experts further cautioned that 85% of the Amazon rainforest will die if temperatures continue to soar. This week, the World Health Organisation published a report which calculated that climate change is claiming the lives of a third of a million people every year.

Rising threat

These warnings are particularly alarming for the Maldives, an Indian Ocean nation of tropical coral islands, just 1.5m above the sea. But climate change does not just threaten the Maldives, it threatens us all.

There is a growing consensus that, unless the world takes drastic action to slash carbon pollution, warming will tip beyond man's control, unleashing unprecedented global catastrophe.

This is why, on 15 March this year, the Maldives announced its plans to become the world's first carbon-neutral country in ten years. Our oil-fired power stations will be replaced with solar, wind and biomass plants; our waste will be turned into clean electricity through pyrolysis technology; and a new generation of boats will slash marine transport pollution. By 2020, the use of fossil fuels will be virtually eliminated in the Maldivian archipelago.

People often ask me why a country that contributes less than 0.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions should bother to go carbon neutral. After all, the Maldives' environmental efforts will not stop global warming if big polluters refuse to countenance all but token emissions reductions. One thing a small nation can do, however, is show the world that rapid reductions in emissions are possible, practical and profitable.

'Free advertising'

Since announcing the carbon neutrality goal a little over two months ago, the Maldives has witnessed something of an environmental enlightenment. Dozens of foreign technology and energy companies have approached us, keen to set up pilot renewable energy projects in the islands.

Multilateral funders and development agencies have offered to finance green projects. And local Maldivian companies are starting to pioneer environmentally friendly technologies that could make them world leaders in the green economy of the future.

The global publicity around the announcement has also provided free advertising for government policies such as the part-privatisation of our energy, waste and transport sectors (naturally, green investors will be given preference).

Carbon neutrality also boosts our tourism industry, as increasingly eco-conscious tourists seek out climate guilt-free destinations. In time, our economy will also be more stable as it decouples from the unpredictable price of foreign oil and relies instead on cheap, raw materials the Maldives has in abundance: the sun, sea and the wind.

The Maldives should certainly benefit from greening its economy. But it is on the world stage that I hope our environmental efforts will add most value. The Maldives' example provides ammunition to environmentalists and concerned citizens around the world. The common bureaucratic excuse - that drastic emissions cuts are unfeasible - is now a little less credible.

If a small, developing nation can go carbon neutral, what excuse can richer, industrialised countries have for refusing to do the same? By demonstrating that radical climate change action is achievable, the Maldives can act as a beacon of hope in a sea of environmental lethargy.

The Green Room is a series of opinion articles on environmental topics running weekly on the BBC News website

Do you agree with President Nasheed? Is one small country's effort enough to influence that of major global carbon emitters? Do the economic differences between giant and tiny nations make the Maldives' example irrelevant to larger economies? Can a shift to carbon-neutral be a profitable prospect for the globe?

Source: BBC News

Traveling Light

The hardest part of traveling is deciding which surfboards and clothing you are going to take with you. It's almost as difficult as a girl packing only one cute dress and a pair of high heel shoes. The problem with me is that I am not only a girl, but a girl who surfs! I love bringing not only multiple pairs of high heel shoes but as many surfboards as I can fit in one board bag with wheels. It can become a difficult process. I have been basically living out of a bag and traveling for the last five years of my life. I still can't ever get this process down. One too many pairs of shirts, dresses, shoes, bikinis, surfboards, brushes, hats etc. I always make the mistake of bringing too much. Then again, once I made the mistake of bringing too little and I was the smelliest girl on the trip with the dirtiest t-shirts. (just kidding)

Today, I must say I figured it out. When you decide in life what works... you stick with it. Why change it? Right now, I am getting ready to board a 22 hour plane ride to the Maldives for a ten 10 boat trip. I am so excited to get on the plane and fly away to one of the most beautiful places on earth. I'm not writing this to tell you about this fantastic trip, yet the fact that I have conquered my packing issues.

Patagonia is the key. This may sound like they paid me to say this, but honestly it's the truth. I am taking three surfboards that are so light my board bag feels empty. I honestly feel so confident that one board would be perfect (yet I like the emergency back up) This is a first for me! In the past, I have struggled to lift my boardbag on my car alone and have knocked over innocent civilians in the airport. Not only is the weight a huge issue, try checking into a flight. Overweight luggage is a horrible factor these days. The amount of money I have paid in luggage fees is enough for a down payment on a house. I have three great surfboards I love and they are going to be so ideal to travel with. I have one small roll away bag with several options of clothing. The best part of Patagonia clothing is that you can roll up all your dresses, shirts, skirts and when you a ready to wear them there will be no wrinkles. This is key, especially when you never know how nice you need to look. I have everything a traveling surfer girl will need from trunks and bikinis to a nice black dress. I even managed to squeeze in a extra pair of shoes ;)

Source: by Mary

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

British Airways to launch routes to Maldives and Egypt

British Airways is launching two new routes from Gatwick for holidaymakers looking for winter sun.

The airline says it will fly to both Male in the Maldives and Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt from 25 October on a thrice-weekly basis. It will be the first time that BA has operated services to the Maldives. BA previously served Sharm el Sheikh through its franchise operator GB Airways, which was acquired by easyJet in 2007.

The services will use Boeing 777 aircraft configured with three classes: World Traveller, World Traveller Plus and Club World.

A British Airways’ spokesman said: "We have been looking at the whole of our longhaul network at Gatwick, and after some detailed research we felt that these two new routes to the Maldives and Sharm El Sheikh would prove popular. We have also recently announced the start of services to Montego Bay in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

"We are also increasing the number of flights each week this winter to St Lucia, Barbados and Trindad. All these routes focus on great beaches and a fantastic holiday environment where customers can relax in the sun and get away from the British winter."

Tickets on both new routes are now on sale through and direct through BA reservations on 0844 493 0787. Lead-in fares from Gatwick to Male will start from £629 return including taxes, fees and charges. Flights to the Maldives will depart from Gatwick on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday at 7.10pm returning from Male on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 1.20pm local time.

Lead-in fares from Gatwick to Sharm El Sheikh will start from £339 return including taxes, fees and charges. Flights to Sharm El Sheikh will depart from Gatwick on Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 10pm returning on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday at 11am local time.