Maldives ministers set for underwater cabinet meeting

MALE, October 17, 2009 (AFP) – 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. 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 centimetres (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 kilometres (530 miles) across the equator, is less than one metre (3.3 feet) above sea level. 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 metre (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,