Underwater meeting for cabinet

2009-10-16 13:56

Colombo - Ministers in the Maldives dived in their final rehearsals on Friday ahead of an underwater cabinet meeting this weekend aimed at drawing attention to the dangers of global warming for the island nation.

Ministers in full scuba gear undertook a practice dive to six metres (20 feet) near the Girifushi island, 25 minutes by speed boat from the capital Male, event coordinator Aminath Shauna said.

"All arrangements are now in place and we are fully prepared to have Saturday's cabinet meeting underwater," Shauna told AFP by telephone.

She said the ministers would sign their wet suits which would then be auctioned on the website, due to be launched on Saturday, to raise money for coral reef protection in the archipelago nation.

The government has arranged a horseshoe-shaped table at the bottom of the sea for ministers to hold Saturday's meeting during which they will communicate using white boards and hand signals.

The Divers Association of Maldives (DAM) said the ministers, who had trained over the past two months, felt confident about the underwater meeting.

"The ministers are fairly comfortable in the water particularly given that they've just started diving," said Zoona Naseem, president of DAM.

From the 14-member cabinet, three ministers will not take part in the dive, officials said, adding that two of them had medical conditions while the other was away in Europe.

The underwater meeting chaired by President Mohamed Nasheed will be attended by his deputy, 11 ministers and the cabinet secretary, while Maldivian military will deploy expert divers to protect the politicians.

The Maldives, located south west of Sri Lanka, has become a vocal campaigner in the battle to halt rising sea levels.

In 2007, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that a rise in sea levels of 18 to 59 centimetres by 2100 would be enough to make the country virtually uninhabitable.

More than 80% of the country's land, composed of coral islands scattered some 850km across the equator, is less than one metre above sea level.