Maldives is Drowning

The Hari Putar Dialogues - 31

(Male, Nov 11 - Fears of global warming are haunting the Maldives with its new president indicating that the Indian Ocean island country will not shy away from buying 'land somewhere' that could act as an 'insurance' against global warming that could submerge some of the world's lowest-lying islands. 'We can do nothing to stop climate change on our own and so we have to buy land elsewhere,' said Mohamed Nasheed, also known as Anni, a former political prisoner who took power Tuesday after a swearing-in ceremony in the Maldivian capital. 'It's an insurance policy for the worst possible outcome. After all, the Israelis (began by buying) land in Palestine,' he said.)

Putar: A report carried in The Economic Times today states that the Maldives may soon get submerged as a result of global warming.

Hari: That's a terrible thought, putar.

Putar: Mohamed Nasheed, the new president, who has just taken over office says that he will look to buy land elsewhere in the world . 

Hari: Is that at all something feasible? What is the population of the Maldives?

Putar: It's less than half a million, Papaji.

Hari: Well, then I suppose it is theoretically feasible, but is the danger real?

Putar: These changes are so small that they cannot be noticed by the naked eye. Government scientists though fear the sea level is rising up to 0.9cm a year. 80% of its 1,200 islands are no more than 1m above sea level. Most parts of the Maldives, known for its luxury resorts and pristine sun-blessed beaches, are barely three feet above water.

Hari: Even storms can badly affect the Maldives, I suppose.

Putar: That's true. The 2004 Tsunami wreaked havoc and threatened to submerge many islands. Male, the country's capital is said to be the world's most densely populated town. It is crammed into a stretch of a couple of kilometers, and is ringed by sea walls, built with assistance from Japan.

Hari: Where does the new President say that he is going to look for land?

Putar: Nasheed is planning to prepare his country for this possible catastrophe and said he has already taken up the issue with some countries and found them to be 'receptive'. He said Sri Lanka and India could be possible choices because of near similar cultures, cuisines and climate.

Hari: Sri Lanka could have been a better choice if the country was not war torn. He'll have to look for a place where the LTTE is not active.

Putar: I suppose he has thought of it because it's an island. Australia is also on the list of possibilities.

Hari: I think it's a better option, if available.

Putar: The President says he is looking for land, as it will be like an insurance policy. They do not want to leave the Maldives, but also do not want to be climate refugees living in tents for decades.

Hari: I wonder if he could actually take out a disaster relief policy with one of the big insurance companies.

Putar: Insurance companies too need insurance these days ' and so do reinsurance companies. AIG, one of the biggest American insurance companies had to be bailed out by the American government.

Hari: That's true.

Putar: One of the reasons why the American Government had to bail out that company was that there were many people affected by cyclones in the US who had taken out flood relief insurance policies with this company.

Hari: Maldives is helpless to do anything about this situation on its own. It's one of the founding members of the Alliance of Small Island States. Since 1992, the Alliance has been asking the world's industrialized countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that lead to rising temperatures.

Putar: It was also one of the first countries to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol.

Hari: That's true.

Putar: Tell me something Papaji?

Hari: Bol, putar?

Putar: This has been a good year for Maldives, politically speaking, hasn't it?

Hari: You mean the transition to democracy?

Putar: Yes. After so many years, they have a democratically elected president. They have progressed politically, but are threatened ecologically.

Hari: I suppose so, putar.

Putar: This has been a good year for former prisoners too, hasn't it?

Hari: What do you mean?

Putar: In Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari has become President, and he was in prison for so many years. And in the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed has become president after being a political prisoner.

Hari: I guess those are the lucky ones ' although, on the subject of former prisoners getting lucky, Senator McCain missed out on the American presidency, didn't he? 

Putar: That's true. Of course it is going both ways.

Hari: What do you mean?

Putar: Former prisoners are becoming head of state and presidents are becoming prisoners, I mean. See the case of the former Taiwanese President, who has been arrested on allegations of corruption.

Hari: That's true. And there is also a Thai Court ruling on similar charges against the former Prime Minister, Thaksin. But what is your question, putar?

Putar: Okay. President Nasheed clearly belongs to a different category. As a political prisoner he must have been trying to get out of prison for a long time. As a result of political changes he finally managed to be rescued from prison and catapulted to a higher office. 

Hari: That's true.

Putar: And with that personal life experience as a constant reminder for him, he is now trying to make sure that his people too can be rescued from the island if need be ' and catapulted to a higher region. What would you say?

Hari: I don't know, putar.  


More by :  Rajesh Talwar

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