UNDP and government sign US$8.5 million project to provide freshwater

The Ministry of Housing and Environment and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have signed a US$8.5 million project to provide “climate smart freshwater solutions” to three densely populated islands.

According to a press release issued by UNDP on Thursday, fresh water will be provided to Ihavandho in Haa Alif atoll, Mahibadhoo in Alif Dhaalu atoll and Gadhdhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu.

Minister of Housing and Environment Mohamed Aslam said that the three islands were chosen after stringent selection criteria, primarily based on their populations and the severity of water scarcity – however, all the islands face clean water shortages, Aslam said.

The project is funded by the Adaptation Fund of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and will be implemented jointly by the government, UNDP and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

The project is undertaken with a “view on country-wide replication and upscaling in the future” press release reads.

“The funds will pay for the establishment of integrated and resilient water supply systems; increase total freshwater storage capacity; and improve the quality of harvested rainwater in the target islands. Similarly, communal rainwater storage schemes will be strengthened, and additional production capacity for desalinated freshwater will be installed to provide backup capacity in times of water stress,” according to the UNDP.

“Artificial groundwater recharge will be enhanced to improve the quality and quantity of water stored in the natural aquifer, and contamination of household effluents will be reduced to prevent damages to the sensitive reef ecosystem”.

Speaking at the project signing ceremony Officer-in-Charge of UNDP, Sanaka Samarasinha said that the “access to water is a fundamental human right, and considering the hardships communities face accessing fresh water in the country, this project will provide clean water to more than 6700 people over the coming months,” said

Undp noted that all the islands in the country do not have a “functioning water supply and distribution network that can ensure sufficient supply of safe freshwater during dry periods” – except Male’, Vilingili and Hulhumale’.

According to the press release, water is scare in the islands due to climate change-induced decline of freshwater resources that is affecting the entire country. It further reads, the key problems pertaining to freshwater security relate to the management of increasingly saline groundwater and increasingly variable rainfall patterns.

“The project will provide a compound solution to a number of critical climate and non-climate-related problems and will be a suitable model for replication on other islands with similar vulnerabilities,” UNDPclaims.