President says Maldives must become carbon neutral at keynote address in London

President Mohamed Nasheed has said the Maldivian people are directly affected by climate change, and steps should be taken to achieve carbon neutrality.

In his keynote address at a London dinner hosted by the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice (MRFCJ), the President noted that the Maldives sat just two metres above sea level. He said that the low elevation makes the country vulnerable to natural disasters, such as the 2004 tsunami.

Nasheed also noted that over 70 Maldive islands have contaminated water supplies due to sea salt intrusion, and supplying desalination systems to all islands has doubled state expenditures.

Nasheed advocated for a deeper understanding of the climate, and urged stronger preventative measures against climate change.

Reducing carbon emissions was one key solution. Nasheed also urged his audience to develop a legally binding climate agreement.

Nasheed said the Maldives should replace fossil fuel with solar power and other renewable sources of energy as part of its commitment to reaching carbon neutrality.


Cabinet holds moment of silence for Japan quake victims

President Mohamed Nasheed and his cabinet today at the beginning of the cabinet meeting held a minute of silence for victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

”Japan has had a close relationships with the Maldivian for a long time,” said the President before the minute of silence, according to the President’s Office. ”All the Maldivians are today sharing this grief of Japan, many citizens of Japan are today faced with physical and health issues.”

”Japan has assisted the Maldives in exporting Maldivian fish, provided equipment for the former Television Maldives (TVM), have conducted many training sessions, helped construct hundreds of schools, assisted in providing electricity to the islands, provide flour constantly, and provided assistance in the sports field and the customs laboratory,” said President Nasheed.

Japan was also responsible for building the sea wall around Male’, which protected the capital from the impact of the 2004 tsunami, and has also built many of the city’s roads.

The President said the moment of silence was a symbol representing the grief of many Maldivians at the natural disaster in Japan.

The President’s Office has recently said that it will provide Japan with 1,800 cases of Maldivian tuna – amounting to 86,400 cans – as ”emergency disaster supplies” for victims of the earthquake and tsunami that has ravaged the country and its infrastructure. Authorities predict that the death toll could reach as high as 10,000.


Maldives to provide 86,400 cans of tuna to Japanese quake victims

The President’s Office has said that it will provide Japan with 1,800 cases of Maldivian tuna – amounting to 86,400 individual cans – as ”emergency disaster supplies” for victims of an earthquake and tsunami that has ravaged the country and its infrastructure.

Japan was devastated Friday by an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale and an ensuing tsunami thought to have killed thousands in the Northeastern Miyagi Prefecture alone. However, in the aftermath of the disaster, local news reports have said that the country is also facing a potential meltdown at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima following an explosion at the site, which has since been linked to the earthquake.

The BBC today reported today that Japanese premier Naoto Kan has claimed that the combined natural and nuclear disasters were the “greatest hardships” faced by the country since World War 2, as an explosion was confirmed to have taken place at a reactor at the Fukushima plant.

Amidst the recent hardships that have befallen the country, the office of President Mohamed Nasheed has claimed it will hope to return some of the support it says has been previously received from Japan.

“The Maldives has offered Japan in-kind assistance of 1,800 cases of canned Maldivian tuna to help feed a town affected by the disaster,” the President’s Office said in a statement. “Japan is a stalwart ally of the Maldives and our largest bilateral donor. Our relationship goes back many years with Japan supporting us in many sectors such as education and infrastructure.”

Acting Foreign Minister Aslam Shakir said in a statement that it was right and proper for the Maldives to provide assistance to the people of Japan.

“Japan also helped us when the devastating 2004 tsunami hit the Maldives and so the [country] will stand by Japan during their time of need,” Shakir was quoted as saying.

According to the President’s Office, the tuna shipments are expected to be sent to Japan shortly, where official disaster response teams will receive the supplies.

“The President’s Office noted that the 1800 cases of tuna – worth 1.2 Million Maldivian Ruffiya (US$93,700) – was sent in an attempt to help citizens of the country displaced in the disaster.

”The Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami has claimed hundreds of lives, while over 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes,” it added in a statement.

As the disaster struck on 11 March, President Mohamed Nasheed was also confirmed to have sent a message to Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

”It was with deep shock and sadness that I learned about the powerful earthquake and tsunami that hit parts of Northern Japan causing loss of lives and injury to hundreds of people, as well as extensive destruction to property and infrastructure,” Nasheed said in his message. “The Government and people of the Maldives join me in conveying our deepest sympathy to you, the Government and the people of Japan, and in particular, to those who were directly affected by this tragedy.”


Meltdown fears raised in Japanese tsunami aftermath

Concerns have been raised of a potential meltdown may be taking place in Japan at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, just 24 hours after the country was devastated by an earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale and an ensuing tsunami.

With more than 600 people thought to have already been killed as a result of yesterday’s tsunami, the BBC reported today that a “massive” explosion had taken place at one of two nuclear plants in Fukushima, situated 250 miles northeast of Tokyo. The incident has raised fears of a meltdown, despite claims from Japanese officials that both sites’ container housing had not been damaged.

An earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale hit Japan yesterday, prompting a tsunami warning to be issued for nations in the Pacific Ocean. Media reports today have speculated that the total number of fatalities in Japan alone from the quake and tsunami could stretch into the thousands.

The first earthquake occurred 382 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, reported the US Geological Survey.

According to today’s BBC report, a state of emergency has been put in place at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini power plants by the country’s Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, with engineers now working to clarify if any of the reactors have gone into meltdown after shutdowns had automatically occurred following the earthquake.

Television pictures from Japan have since shown what news sources claim to be the collapse of one of four buildings at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant as a result of the explosion, though no information has been officially confirmed on what part of the site had exploded or the cause behind it.

However, the government representing the Fukushima prefecture in which the plants are based confirmed that radiation levels at the plant during one hour were equal to the normal annual allowable expenditure at the site, the BBC said.

Meanwhile, the Agence France Presse (AFP) news organisation has reported that the Japanese prime minister’s deputy, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, has sent a “hyper rescue team” to the plant site as part of government contingency measures including collecting iodine, which can used in trying to combat radiation sickness.

Following yesterday’s earthquake, tsunami warnings were immediately issued for Japan, Taiwan, Russia and the Mariana Islands, while Guam, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Micronesia and Hawaii were placed at a lower warning level.

Hussein Waheed from the Maldives Department of Meteorology confirmed that a tsunami warning was issued for the Pacific Ocean a minute after the earthquake had struck. No warning had been issued for the Indian Ocean region, he said yesterday.


Tsunami warning only for Pacific region after 8.8 Japan quake: Met office

An earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale has hit Japan prompting a tsunami warning to be issued for the Pacific Ocean.

Although the earthquake shook Tokyo, one of the world’s most congested and built-up cities, no fatalities were reported.

The first earthquake occurred 382 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, reported the US Geological Survey.

A tsunami warning was issued for Japan, Taiwan, Russia and the Mariana Islands, while Guam, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Micronesia and Hawaii were placed at a lower warning level.

Hussein Waheed from the Maldives Department of Meteorology confirmed that a tsunami warning was issued for the Pacific ocean a minute after the earthquake had struck. No warning had been issued for the Indian Ocean region, he said.

The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami that followed a quake off the coast of Indonesia killed 83 people in the Maldives and displaced over 20,000. Worldwide, more than 220,000 people were killed.

The structure of the Maldives and the sharp drop-off of the atolls protected the Maldives the brunt of the 2004 tsunami, unlike the gradual gradient of the coast of southern Sri Lanka which allowed the waves to gather power and momentum.


“Pictures paint a thousand words” for tsunami exhibition curator

A collection of children’s drawings and photographs depicting Maldivian perceptions of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami have been unveiled as part of the first exhibition to be hosted at Male’s new National Gallery building, six years to the day that large swathes of South Asia were hit by the devastating waves.

The exhibition is called Drawing the Wave, which combines photographic images with drawings provided by school children from a number of islands on how they remembered the tsunami.

Amidst canvases of bright crayon illustrations depicting cartoon-like trees and vivid wavy blue lines devouring football pitches, houses and even stick-like drawings of people, questions and phrases are written that are said to have expressed the fears of young people across Meedhoo, Madifushi and Buruni; three islands badly hit by the tsunami.

“Are we a sinking nation?”, “We lost our school. We lost our future. Someone lost their parent” and “Don’t we deserve something better?” are just some of the phrases written upon the images drawn up by students in the eighth and ninth grades back in 2005, based on their experiences of surviving the tsunami.

These writings, according to exhibition curator Ragni Afeef, powerfully reflected concerns about the Tsunami from the experiences of children that have lived through the waves.

“There are three or four drawings created by students in grade eight or nine that contained writing that is very moving,” she said, talking of how the words belied the child-like images on display. “They were teenagers at the time, teenagers who had seen computers at their school destroyed and were unable to sit exams. They were frustrated on another level entirely.”

The exhibition, which was opened yesterday evening in the presence of President Mohamed Nasheed and a number of other guests such as the Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Mariyam Zulfa, is expected to remain at the National Gallery for two weeks. It has previously been shown at venues across Norway, from where Afeef is originally from.

“These drawings have travelled a long way,” said the curator during the exhibition’s opening.

Afeef told Minivan News, that she had also contributed a number of photographs to the exhibition of sandals and footwear found discarded and partly destroyed in February 2005, two months after the Tsunami had struck.

During this period, Afeef visited a number of beaches that had been struck by the Tsunami, many of which she had said had been “littered with the footwear” during the devastation.

“I wondered to who did they belong? What is their story,” she said.

Speaking during the exhibition opening, Afeef said that despite the childlike contents of the images, when it came to the seriousness of the content, she believed in the old adage that “a picture can paint a thousand words”.

“This is the first exhibition in the new National Gallery,” she said. “A museum can help explain to a world what it means to be human.”

With the artwork now back in the Maldives, Afeef claimed that she had come “full circle” with the exhibition and was at “the end of this particular journey”, despite her hopes that the government may take the exhibition to the three islands where the art originated from.

However, Afeef claimed that she hoped to fulfill a longstanding plan to return to the islands and try and see how life had changed at the rebuilt schools, “perhaps in a year or so”.

While remaining in touch with a teacher from Meedhoo who helped compile the work shown in the exhibition, Afeef said she had not been able to remain in contact with the children whose work now provided an account of a major moment in Maldivian history for a global audience.

However, as part of what the curator saw as a positive legacy of the exhibition, she claimed that the exhibition had led to collections in Norway that had raised money to provide computers for a future generation of school children in the Maldives.

The Drawing the Wave exhibition is expected to remain on display at Male’ National Art Gallery for the next two weeks. More information is available through the National Gallery on 3310729.


HRCM calls for government to provide permanent homes for tsunami victims urgently

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has expressed concern that Maldivian victims of 2004’s Indian Ocean tsunami have remained in temporary shelters ever since, calling on the government to urgently provide permanent housing for such people.

”It has caused the victims to face obstacles in gaining basic human rights and experience difficulties for a long period of time,” said the commission in a statement. ”The state should give high priority to provide shelter for the victims.”

The HRCM said that it met with people living in the temporary shelters, some of which it had learned were very old and in need of refurbishment. The commission claimed that some of the shelters did not have sewerage systems, meaning water supplies could have been polluted.

”Due to these reasons, these persons are at a disability from the right for education, the right for protection and safety and the right to establish family,” the HRCM said.

The commission added it had met with the country’s Centre for Disaster Management several times to discuss solutions for the complaints it had received.

”A naturally delicate country like the Maldives should always be well prepared for any disaster – natural or otherwise – that could potentially happen, and it is necessary for the Centre for Disaster Management to be ready to provide first aid urgently in case.”

The HRCM also said that there is also a potential risk of outbreaks of illness in the temporary shelters due to the living conditions.


Maldives democracy must prove it can guarantee liberty: European Commission report

Democracy in the Maldives is in a crucial phase and needs to prove to the people that it is able to guarantee liberty, according an independent evaluation of the European Commission’s €26.3 million (US$36.6 million) assistance package to the Maldives over the last 10 years.

“The political, administrative, and judicial system needs reforming in order to implement constitutional guarantees and requirements,” the report found.

“The passing of an important number of bills has been delayed in parliament, which is composed predominately of newcomers to politics and in which the opposition coalition has the majority – resulting in the problem of consensus having to be reached between the government and its parliamentary opposition.”

As a consequence, the country was under pressure to provide a functioning political, judicial and local governance system, the EC report noted, identifying two major areas of reform: the judicial sector (including police and prisons), “and the decentralisation reform, beginning with the local [council] elections.”

The independent evaluation was commissioned by the EC to critique its funding of programs between 1999 to 2009, which have included support for the empowerment of women, over €15 million in tsunami-related assistance, technical support for the presidential and parliamentary elections, island waste management centres and more recently, pledges off €6.5 million for climate change adaption and mitigation support, as well as €1.3 million earmarked for combating drug abuse.

The report was presented at Holiday Inn yesterday to a cross section of stakeholders including government officials, civil society, international donor organisations and the press.

Overall achievement of executives was described as “mixed”. The strategic planning of many programmes was “too ambitious given the level of available funding”, the report noted, with gaps between planning and implementation.

“The environmental support program was too ambitiously planned and had to be scaled down to solid waste management only,” the report stated. “Constructed island waste management systems are, with few exceptions, not operational, and waste management centres are unequipped.”

The failings of this project were due in part to “technical” problems, including design weaknesses and missing equipment, “and insufficient involvement of communities in general, notably the Island Women Development committees.”

“Women on the islands are quite well organised and are often the main actors in terms of environmental issues and social and economic life. Many households are managed by women, as men are often working in the tourist resorts, in the fisheries industry, or abroad,” the report observed.

“However the present local governance structures generally do not sufficiently allow women to play an effective role in the local decision-making process.”

Equipment for the island waste management systems, purchased with the project’s remaining funding, remains stored in Male’, the report noted.

Economic vulnerability

The EC had identified the Maldives’ reliance on a single export commodity as a fundamental weakness in its commodity, but plans to diversify these exports “were too ambitious an objective for EC support.”

The problem was going to exacerbate when the Maldives graduates from Less Developed Country (LDC) status in January 2011, the report noted, when it will lose preferential market access and technical and financial support from multilateral and regional sources. This will have particular impact on the country’s trade with Sri Lanka and Thailand.

“Maldives exports can be built up and diversified only if action is taken to resolve serious supply-side issues in the economy, including access to investment finance, improvement of production procedures and standards, training of the workforce, development of modern marketing principles, and improvement of transport infrastructure.”

Programmes identified as successful by the EC report included that allocated to the presidential and parliamentary elections, which produced “a positive perception of the EC as a recognised political partner in the democratisation process.”

Looking ahead, the report suggested ensuring that projects had clearer objectives and were realistically planned, and preferably managed from within the country rather than outside.

It also recommended greater strategic focus on no more than two areas of priority, “such as environment/climate change and the good governance/decentralisation sector”.

Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Bernard Savage, observed that programmes run in cooperation with other donors such as the World Bank and UN Agencies had been the most successful.

“Programmes carried out under this collaboration have been reviewed as both effective and efficient in general,” he said.


Island growth in Maldives may counter rising sea levels: Speigel Online

The Maldives may be growing with the rising waters, say a team of six scientists studying the sediments and growth of Maldivian islands.

“We take climate change very seriously,” says Paul Kench, a geologist from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “But in order to correctly predict the real consequences for the atolls, we first have to understand how they will actually respond to rising sea levels in the future.”

The Maldives attained their current form about 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, according to the scientists’ research. Even natural disasters like the 2004 tsunami, which killed at least 82 people in the Maldives, do not destroy the islands, Kench claims. On the contrary, the Indian Ocean tsunami even added new sediments. “We’ve measured up to 30 centimeters of growth in some places,” he says.

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