Maldives cabinet meets underwater to seek action on climate

Maldives cabinet meets underwater to seek action on climate

Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed signs a document calling on all countries to cut Co2 emissions during an underwater meeting in Male on Saturday. AP

The Maldivian cabinet met at the bottom of the sea on Saturday to frame an SOS to global leaders to save their atoll nation from being submerged by the rising seas.

A declaration approved at the end of a 25 minute meeting, presided by President Mohammad Nasheed, called for global action to combat climate change and would be presented at the Copenhagen climate summit in December.

"We should come out of Copenhagen with a deal that will ensure that everyone will survive," said Nasheed. "Maldives is a frontline state and what happens to us today will happen to others tomorrow," the 42-year old President of this picturesque group of coral islands said at the meeting held six metres below the surface of a lagoon off Girifushi island, about 35 nautical miles from capital Male.

Nasheed and his cabinet colleagues, wearing face masks, scuba-dived to their underwater rendezvous and spent 45 minutes sitting across tables immersed to the sea bottom.

The declaration said global warming was sending the ice caps crashing into the sea leading to sharp rise in water levels and threats to the low-lying nations, the Presidential spokesperson said over phone from Male.

The ministers dressed in scuba suits arrived by speed boats to the island and then dived to the cabinet meeting.

Nasheed and his colleagues used white boards and hand signals to communicate their decisions at the under-sea meet. All the ministers had undergone diving courses for the past two months to keep their underwater date.

The Maldivian ministers went to these extraordinary lengths as a UN panel on climate change had warned that even a rise of sea levels between 18 to 60 cm would submerge the islands by 2100.

Maldives comprises of more than 100 islands scattered over an area of 800 kms across the equator, and 90 per cent are just one metre above sea level.

While his ministers had to take diving lessons, Nasheed himself an experienced diver very confidently presided over the world's first underwater cabinet meeting, the spokesperson said.