The Public Health Unit (PHU) has warned Baa Atoll Eydhafushi Island residents against drinking or cooking with rainwater following a “black rain” shower on Tuesday.
Similar incidents of black colored rain were reported in Meemu Atoll Kolhufushi Island in 2011, and Haa Dhaal Atoll Kulhudhuffushi Island in 2006.
In 2013 there were further reports on Haa Dhaal Atoll Nolhivaram Island and Haa Dhaal Atoll Kurimbi Island, and in Dhaalu Atoll Meedhoo Island.
However, little seems to be known about the health implications of this occurrence. Islanders have speculated the phenomenon maybe acid rain.
“We advise people not to use the water for drinking or cooking, but they might be able to give it to their plants,” a Health Protection Agency (HPA) official told Minivan News.
The HPA said they have not observed any negative health effects from black rain yet.
Islanders are heavily dependent on rainwater for cooking and drinking, but many are now turning to store-bought mineral water as reserves run low in the dry season.
Senior Community Health Officer at Baa Atoll Hospital Sidqi Abdulla told Minivan News islanders were not concerned about threats posed by polluted water to their water supplies as the black rain was only seen on some parts of the island.
“This is the first time we’ve seen black rain in Eydhafushi,” he said.
However, he noted increased water insecurity in the island due to intrusion of saltwater into groundwater.
Although state officials have yet to confirm the reason for the black rain, research carried out by University of California’s Professor Veerabhadran Ramanathan indicates there is ten times more pollutants in the air mass north of the Maldives compared with the south.
The Cloud Aerosol Radiative Forcing Dynamics Experiment (CARDEX) carried out in 2012 suggests that soot and carbon from India are captured in ‘brown clouds,’ which drift over the North of the archipelago.
This pollutant layer, he argues, is an insidious mixture of soot, sulphates, nitrates and ash, Ramanathan has said.
Only the southern tip of the long island chain enjoys clean air coming all the way from Antarctica.
“The stunning part of the experiment was this pollutant layer which was three kilometre thick, cut down the sunlight reaching the ocean by more than 10%,” Ramanathan said in a BBC interview.