Maldives' residents looking for a new patch of land

One of the Maldives' 1,192 islands.

Blogging on EARTH

The highest land point in the Maldives, a tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, is only about 2.4 meters above sea level. With the IPCC predicting a sea level rise of 20 to 58 centimeters by the year 2100, the Maldives' 300,000 residents are therefore among the most threatened in the world by climate change.

So, according to The Guardian, Maldives' new president, Mohamed Nasheed, has announced a dramatic new "insurance policy" for his people: He plans to use billions of dollars from the country's tourist industry to invest in a new homeland somewhere else. Nasheed himself is an interesting character — before becoming the country's first democratically elected president, he was a human rights activist who had been imprisoned and tortured by the country's previous president, who banned rival parties and ruled autocratically for 30 years.

Things are different now — but even as they're looking up politically, the country remains in desperate straits, with its 26 atolls supporting 1,192 islands that are still barely bobbing above the waves. Unable to stop climate change on their own, Nasheed said, the country will simply invest in new land elsewhere. Among the host countries in which they're considering buying land are Sri Lanka, India or Australia — some of which have been "receptive" to the idea, he said.

Carolyn Gramling
Tuesday, November 11, 2008 - 05:30