The Maldives Prepare to Be Underwater
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
It is no wonder that the Government of the Maldives has been talking about buying up a tract of land elsewhere in South Asia to evacuate its people to if global sea levels keep rising. For the islands from the air look fragile enough. Only when one has landed does it become apparent how low lying this island group in the Indian Ocean actually is. There are no "high points", most islands are literally a few feet above the Ocean. It almost feels that one large wave could subsume the place altogether.
Here it is possible to actually see the effects of global warming at first hand. On the beach I picked up a piece of coral, only to be informed that there this year there has been widespread bleaching of the coral reefs around the Maldives, as water temperatures have become warmer. This last happened in 1998. The question being, I suppose, are events like these becoming more frequent?
Male is the main island and capital of this nation of some seventy islands spread over a vast area of the Indian Ocean. And Male is incredibly crowded, paying host to just over a third of the people - some 100,000 souls crammed onto an island barely a couple of miles square.There isn't a huge amount of work going - although the tourist industry is a vital component of the economy and does provide quite a a good deal of local employment. There is a substantial drug problem, of heroin addiction in particular in Male, and one that had very serious health ramifications if it is true, as I have been told, that people are increasingly injecting themselves. But the tourists will probably be some of the last to discover the other face of paradise, secure as they are in the multitude of island tourits resorts away from the capital. And who can in fairness blame them? The Maldives is an expensive holiday destination, and for plenty of good reasons. The tourists didn't come on holiday to write reports on global warming and poverty - but hopefully enough of them will have the good sense and understanding to realise that even in paradise, life for many can be tough, and that the activities of man elesewhere is having its most immediate effect in environmentally vulnerable places like this.
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