During his reign as President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed used his presidential hammer to install solar panels on his official roof, taught his cabinet to scuba dive in order to sign a resolution (while underwater) demanding the United Nations to return the planet’s atmosphere to 350 parts per million of CO2, and vowed to make the Maldives the world’s first country to go carbon neutral. Yet, when world leaders meet in Paris this week for a conference on climate change, Nasheed won’t be in attendance. Instead, he’ll be in jail after a military coup d’etat deposed him from the office in 2012.
A tiny, island nation located off the southern tip of India, the Maldives is the world’s lowest-lying nation. Abundant coral reefs — the seventh largest in the world — are home to 250 different species of coral and over 1,000 species of fish. Mere meters above sea level, the Maldives chairs the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and advocacy group against Climate Change, and is on the front line of the fight against global warming.
Once labelled as the Indian Ocean’s Mandela, Nasheed was deposed in 2012 and replaced by cohorts of the dictator that had previously ruled for 30 years. He is now languishing away in jail where reports say his health is failing and he is being denied proper healthcare.
Nasheed once said, “I am not a scientist, but I know that one of the laws of physics, is that you cannot negotiate with the laws of physics. Three – Five – Oh is a law of atmospheric physics. You cannot cut a deal with Mother Nature. And we don’t intend to try.”
Nasheed’s successor, Abdulla Yameen, is now weighing bids for oil drilling in the Maldives. Two British and two Norwegian firms have already expressed interest in surveying and exploration. One of those is the UK-based Zebra Data Services Limited. Meanwhile, the president is reaching out in attempts to bring Chinese corporations into the fold.
Local environmental groups say drilling would not only threaten the tourism industry that makes up 90 percent of the local economy but would threaten the country’s fragile environmental existence.
Blue Peace, an environmental NGO based in Maldives, said that oil drilling could cause environmental damage depending on the location of drilling. Blue Peace also said drilling “cannot coexist” with the tourism industry, according to Mini Van News.
“To me Maldives attempting for oil exploration is like a person attempting suicide,” Aisha Niyaz, a leading climate change activist in Maldives, told Turkey Agenda.