Entire country sinking, may need to be relocated

As hinted at by the crescent on their flag, the Maldives is a predominantly Muslim nation

As hinted at by the crescent on their flag, the Maldives is a predominantly Muslim nation

CNN reports that the nation of the Maldives, located entirely on a series of coral islands in the Indian Ocean, is in danger of being swamped by rising sea levels.  The highest point in the whole country is just two meters above sea level and doesn’t even have a name; recent storms have flooded the entire nation.

They just held their first competitive elections in 30 years and their new president,  Mohamed Nasheed, is serious about addressing his nation’s big problem.  He has suggested they acquire land in another country and move their entire nation there, saying “We do not want to end up in refugee tents if the worst happens.”  Nearby India and Sri Lanka are possibilities, as is Australia, which has plenty of room to spare.  Nasheed reports that after initial inquiries, several other countries have been “receptive” to the idea of the Maldives, a country of about 270,000 people, moving there.

Malé, the capital of the Maldives,  is less than one square mile but has about 105,000 people, all less than two meters above sea level. (click to enlarge)

Malé, the capital of the Maldives, is less than one square mile but has about 105,000 people, all less than two meters above sea level. (click to enlarge)

The nation is made up of 1,192 islands, about 250 of which are inhabited.  Tourism is a chief industry there, bringing in over $1 billion U.S. dollars per anum.  The new administration is talking about setting aside part of this revenue for use in the event that the population does need to be relocated somewhere.

The Astralian reports that global warming has been overstated as a cause of concern for Maldivians.  A much bigger problem, they say, is increased mining for coral, about the only indiginous building material available in the country.  This removes barrier reefs that protect the islands of the country from erosion from waves and storm surges.  The incoming government indicates that they will seek international help to strengthen and preserve the nation’s natural reef barriers.

Some climate models predict that sea level could rise by as much as 59 centimeters (about two feet) in the next century; this would put most of the Maldives under water.

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