11 Nov 2008

Plan for new Maldives homeland

6:19 am on 11 November 2008

The new president of the Maldives wants to buy a new homeland for his people.

President-elect Mohamed Nasheed says that a gradual rise in sea levels means the islanders may eventually be forced to resettle elsewhere.

Mr Nasheed will be sworn in as the country's first democratically elected president on Tuesday. He says he intends set up a fund to acquire land in other parts of the region.

India and Sri Lanka are the most likely countries to host the proposed new homeland but Australia is also being looked at because of its vast empty spaces.

The BBCnew reports the Maldives is the lowest nation in the world. Its highest land is little more than two metres above sea level.

The Maldives comprise more than 1,000 islands and coral atolls surrounded by the clear waters of the Indian Ocean.

Over the last century, sea levels around parts of the archipelago rose by nearly 20cm. Mr Nasheed fears that even a small rise could leave some islands inundated.

The white sandy beaches of the Maldives are a major tourist attraction bringing in billions of dollars every year.

The United Nations estimates that sea levels may rise globally by nearly 60cm this century.