On October 7, the Associated Press reported that government ministers from the Republic of Maldives had begun preparing for their first ever underwater cabinet meeting, to emphasize the impact of climate change on rising sea levels. Maldives is the lowest-lying nation on earth, with its highest point only eight feet above the sea level, and thus the most vulnerable to such oceanic changes.
Located to the southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Sea (maps), the Republic of Maldives consists of 1,190 coral islands, which form 26 major atolls – islands of coral that encircle lagoons. These atolls are one part of the Laccadives-Chagos Ridge, which stretches over 2,000 kilometers.
According to a 1998 census, an estimated 270,000 people live on the island. While English is widely spoken, Dhivehi is the official language of the republic. The Maldives currency is the Rufiyaa, with an exchange rate of 1 U.S.D. to 12.97 Rufiyaa.
The earliest settlers on the island were known as the Giraavarus, and many believe they descend from the Tamils people, in Sri Lanka. The second kind of Maldives, Dhovemi Kalaminja, converted the island peoples to Islam in the 12th century. In 1887, Maldives became a British protectorate. The republic received full political dependence from Britain on July 25, 1965.