As Maldives is among the countries most vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by the global warming, President Mohamed Nasheed has declared the tourists' paradise endowed with a chain of 1192 coral and white sand islands as a front line State in the battle against climate change.

Mr. Nasheed had pledged in March 2009 on behalf of Maldives to take action in this regard by becoming carbon neutral by 2020.

The Maldives government has appealed to the developed and developing nations to reach an ambitious post-Kyoto climate deal at the 13-day conference at Copenhagen in December 2009.

The government here, which has invited a group of foreign correspondents to discuss the grave situation before the Cophenhagen summit, has outlined various challenges confronting the country.

As much as 80 per cent of the land area in Maldives is less than one metre above mean sea-level and 47 per cent of houses are less than 100m from the coastline.

The combination of high tides and storm surges that occur usually during May clearly pose an ever-increasing threat of devastating consequences for the country.

In offering an upper estimate of 0.59m for the potential rise in sea level by 2100 A.D, the 2007 assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stresses that scientific uncertainties over carbon feedback loops have not been taken into account so that this is not an "upper bound" prediction.

Ominously, an unprecedented number of 55 islands were inundated in the storm surge in May 2007.

According to the Maldivian President's office statement, the year 2009 is crucial for global climate change negotiations.

It said the various international meetings culminating in the Copenhagen Summit on climate change in December will guide the future initiatives for tackling global warming.

"World leaders and various groups and corporations will decide what action our planet will take to face the challenges brought about by climate change," the statement said.

"Our livelihoods, homes and futures centre on the durability of our coral reefs, which are threatened by warming and more acidic seas," it said.

"Maldives cannot afford to neglect ambitious action on climate change and we are no longer waiting for the world to catch up," the statement said.

An emerging strategy of "safer islands" reinforces the development plans for "population and development

consolidation."

Under this, people from the lower lying islands might relocate to other areas more suitable where they can be protected against sea intrusion.

One third of the population already lives in the capital Male, surrounded by a sea wall and dependent on expensive desalination plants for water supplies.

From a very long list of potential adaptation projects, the government's National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) identifies the priorities as coastal protection and population movement.

It acknowledges that the upper end of IPCC predictions would bring regular inundation of "almost all islands."

According to experts, salt water intrusion will also be damaging to the food production prospects in Maldives.

They say any reduction in rainfall would affect the majority of the Atoll population who rely on rainwater harvesting for their source of water.

Since the 1980s Maldives has consistently voiced its concerns on the importance of addressing the climate change as experts say it is extremely vulnerable to rising seas levels as a result of increasing global ocean temperatures.

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