The Maldives, that little stretch of paradise off the coast of India, is looking for a new homeland. Literally. Fearing that the effects of climate change will mean that the chain of 1,200 islands and coral atolls will disappear under the sea because of rising water levels, they are beginning to save money to buy land elsewhere. The UN has forecasted that the ocean will rise by up to 2 feet by 2100. Since some parts of the Maldives are just 1.5 meters (5 feet) above water, even a small rise could cause disaster to the small country.
The new president, the first-ever to be democratically elected, Mohamed Nasheed said "We can do nothing to stop climate change on our own and so we have to buy land elsewhere. It's an insurance policy for the worst possible outcome. We do not want to leave the Maldives, but we also do not want to be climate refugees living in tents for decades."
The plan is to divert a portion of the nation's profits from the tourism industry and create a "sovereign wealth fund" to invest in new lands. He is looking at other countries such as Sri Lanka and India because they have similar cultures. Australia is an option because of the large amounts of unoccupied land available. There are serious legal and constitutional issues to be considered in the relocation of an entire nation.
Sea levels have already risen by about 20 cm in the last century. Many people died and others were left without homes after the 2004 tsunami. That wave was barely a metre high and it displaced 12,000 people. Now the authorities are dredging the surrounding reefs and using sand to raise the level of the main island which is most densely populated. Tens of thousands of trees have been planted to stop erosion and give some protection against severe weather conditions. However it is recognised that this will not be enough to cope with the long term effects of global warming. Guardian
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