Saturday, October 17, 2009
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 protectmaldives.com 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 350.org 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."