The atoll-nation, comprising 1,192 coral islets, is a mere 1.5 metres above sea level. The Ministers will wear scuba gear and use hand signals and slates to communicate with each other at the world's first underwater cabinet meeting on Oct. 17, 2009

The President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, is to preside over the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting on Oct. 17, 2009, off the island of Girifushi -- about 20 minutes journey by speed boat from the capital Male, to draw global attention to the pressing issue of climate change.

At the meeting, the Cabinet plans to sign a document calling on all countries to cut down their carbon emissions ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, where the countries are to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. The Ministers will wear scuba gear and use hand signals and slates to communicate.

The Maldives comprises 1,192 coral islets that lie on average just 1.5 metres above sea level. As a country that is threatened most by the rise in sea level, the Maldives sees itself as the front-line state in the debate on climate change.

In his address to the United Nations climate summit in New York on Sept. 22, 2009, Mr. Nasheed had called upon world leaders to seize the historic opportunity at the Copenhagen climate summit to be held in December. He asked world leaders to “discard [the] habits that have led to 20 years of complacency and broken promises on climate change”.

A senior official in the Maldivian Presidential Secretariat told The Hindu that the underwater meeting is part of a wider campaign by international environmental NGO 350.org.

350. org is calling on political leaders to commit to deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions at Copenhagen. The world’s top climatologists, such as James Hansen of the NASA/Goddard Institute, caution that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide must return to the safe threshold of 350 parts per million if catastrophic global warming is to be avoided.

Levels currently stand at 385ppm. The 350.org campaign will cumulate in a global day of environmental action on October 24.

For the Maldives the threat of a warmer sea will translate into higher water levels, through thermal expansion of the ocean and storm surges and could also damage coral, on which the islands depend for fishing and tourism.

The potential danger is so acute that the country’s leadership has been thinking aloud about buying a new "homeland" for its 3,30,000 people, in Australia, India or Sri Lanka.

After the cabinet meeting, President Nasheed is scheduled to hold a press conference, where he will call for carbon dioxide reductions commensurate with the 350 target.

President Nasheed has often warned of the dangers climate change poses to the Maldives – a country that has reached the final of the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature’ competition.

Ahead of the Saturday’s event, on October 12 an insurance policy for underwater cabinet meeting was presented to the Cabinet.

In preparation for the meeting Maldivian Ministers have been taking scuba diving lessons with help from Divers Association Maldives (DAM).

President Nasheed is a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Advanced Open Water diver.

The Maldivian President is scheduled to visit India next week at the invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and intends to enlist New Delhi’s cooperation in the global quest for a common understanding on climate change.