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Sand from Bangladesh may boost Maldives

DHAKA, Bangladesh, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Sand from Bangladesh may help to keep the Maldives above water under a proposed agreement between the two countries, an official said.

"We have received a proposal from the Maldives government regarding this. They want to import soil from our country in defense against rising sea levels," said Bangladesh Commerce Minister Muhammad Faruk Khan, the Business Standard newspaper of India reports.

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The two countries are investigating the possibility and may sign an agreement within three or four months, Khan said.

Dredging Bangladesh's rivers has become necessary because of huge amounts of sediment -- totaling around 264 billion gallons -- that is naturally deposited from the Himalayas. As a result, the country's rivers are becoming increasingly difficult for vessels to navigate, Khan said.

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Dredging would start with Mongla Port on the Posur River and isn't likely to have an impact on Bangladesh's environment, Khan said.

"We are more than happy if the deal works out because it will be beneficial for a brotherly nation," Khan said.

The Maldives' 1,200 low-lying islands and coral atolls, about 500 miles from the tip of India, are in danger of disappearing if the current pace of global climate change continues. In 2007, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that rising sea levels of up to nearly 2 feet would swamp many of the country's islands, which average 4.9 feet above sea level.

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To keep back the ocean, the Maldives has had to build sea walls and residents of 16 islands need to be relocated to bigger islands. Those larger islands, in turn, are in the process of being reclaimed and recreated, Maldives' President Mohamed Nasheed recently told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Last October, Nasheed had the world's first underwater Cabinet meeting to call attention to climate change and has pledged that his country would go carbon neutral by 2020 by switching to 100 percent renewable energy.

In November, the Maldives was the first country to release a carbon audit, which calculated future emissions trajectories and included recommendations to reduce greenhouse gases and oil dependency.

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Nasheed was ranked 39th in Foreign Policy magazine's listing of the most influential 100 people globally in 2010, referring to him as "the world's most environmentally outspoken president."

"He has made his tiny country -- a string of atolls in the Indian Ocean … a poster child for the need to stop global warming," the magazine said of Nasheed.

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