Government targets generating 30 percent of electricity from renewable sources

The government has announced a five-year target to generate 30 percent of electricity used during daylight hours in the 196 inhabited islands of the Maldives from renewable energy sources.

Briefing the press today on the UN Climate Summit 2014 held yesterday, Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim that efforts were already underway to install solar panels in some islands such as Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaal atoll.

“Electricity will be provided from solar panels in Dhaal Kudahuvadhoo, Raa Ungoofaru and Kaafu Dhiffushi very soon. Work is underway in an additional five islands,” the minister was quoted as saying by newspaper Haveeru.

The government was in the process of formulating a low carbon energy policy, he said.

Referring to the impact of climate change on the Maldives, Thoriq noted that 116 islands were facing beach erosion, with severe erosion in 64 islands.

Coastal protection projects have been undertaken in several islands, he added.


Government will not allow religion to be used as a weapon for political purposes: Home Minister

Council members of the minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) questioned by police were unable to substantiate “slanderous allegations” that the government was working with “Jews and Christian priests” to undermine Islam in the Maldives, Home Minister Hassan Afeef said today.

Briefing press at the police headquarters, Afeef criticised Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and ‘Sandhaanu’ Ahmed Ibrahim Didi for exercising the right to remain silent when they were summoned for a second time last night and challenged the DQP leaders to point out or provide evidence of “the government’s efforts to wipe out Islam.”

“Where is that priest? Where is the money that priest gave? When was it given? Which account was it deposited to?” Afeef asked.

Dr Jameel told police interrogators that his claims were based on “rumours circulating in the island,” Afeef revealed, criticising the former Justice Minister for not realising the gravity of the allegations when repeating it without proof.

Sandhaanu Didi’s statement to police was meanwhile “useless chatter” claiming the President was “a madman and a Christian,” he added.

“We cannot allow such claims to cause unrest among the public, incite hatred towards the government and lead to discord,” Afeef asserted.

He reiterated that opposition leaders had a responsibility to substantiate “atrocious” allegations that the MDP government was intent on “wiping away Islam” to introduce religious freedom and the practice of other religions.

“This government will not allow anyone to use religion as a weapon for political purposes,” he continued. “Therefore, I would like to remind [journalists] that these actions are an atrocity. The government is not going to allow such atrocities to be committed. I urge you to be mindful of this when the media reports such news.”

Afeef also suggested that the Media Council and Maldives Broadcasting Commission were failing to fulfill their mandate by not objecting to religiously-based allegations by opposition politicians on privately-owned media outlets.

Asked why the police were not investigating cases filed by the opposition against President Mohamed Nasheed, Afeef insisted that the complaints were “baseless” and that police “would investigate if there was any truth to it.”

Among the cases filed with police include a request by PPM Deputy Leader Umar Naseer to investigate President Nasheed’s remarks allegedly “encouraging drug use”.

Calling for compassion towards heroin addicts, Nasheed said in June 2011: “When we don’t provide care for them, they take off with the box cutter and steal money from the mother’s drawers. [They] need it. They need to use. They must use. We have to come to know and understand this. We shouldn’t try talking about this politically or with the intention of hiding behind a nice veil, without using the real terms and words.”

The falsehood of such claims by Umar Naseer and others was evident and “clear as night and day,” Afeef argued.

Asked about DQP’s request for police to investigate President Nasheed’s claims to foreign media that islands in the Maldives were sinking, Afeef said the President was referring to beach erosion in recent interviews and not submersion by sea level rise.

DQP also requested police investigate Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair for allegedly “threatening the media.”

Meanwhile, according to his twitter page, Dr Jameel revealed that he and Sandhaanu Didi have been summoned to the police station tonight for a third time.

The pair were questioned by police for a second time Saturday night, but both exercised the right to remain silent. After the initial interrogation Thursday night, Did was detained for almost 24 hours and released around 7:00pm Friday night.

Sandhaanu Didi appeared outside the police headquarters with a mask and fins last night, explaining that he had cooperated with police for 30 minutes on Thursday night and intended to “go snorkeling with the police boys tonight.”


Unicef to help combat erosion in Meedhoo

The Central Province office has said an agreement will be signed with Unicef to combat beach erosion in Dhaalu atoll Meedhoo, Voice of Maldives reports.

Ibrahim Umar Manik, deputy state minister, said funds had been secured after a survey conducted on the island to determine the cost of the project. He added land reclamation on Meedhoo will also protect its sewerage plant and football field, located about ten feet away from the beach.

Meedhoo islanders have put up sandbagged at the beach as a temporary measure to prevent erosion. Umar said a permanent solution would be to reclaim land and construct a pier or harbour.


Holhudhoo prepares for beach erosion

Residents of Noonu atoll Holhudhoo have sent a letter to their island councillor expressing concern over the escalation in beach erosion, especially as monsoon season approaches.

Councillor Ishaq Rasheed told Minivan News that erosion was particularly bad on the north-east corner of the island where land had been reclaimed and plots given out to islanders to build houses.

“It happens every year during the north-east monsoon but it was worse last year than before,” said Ishaq, adding that he feared a repeat in late December or early January.

“One house owned by Badeeu was almost built. He just had the foundations. But luckily he didn’t built it otherwise it would have been completely in the sea,” he said.

In another example, Ishaq said the occupants of Saraamanzil were forced to leave their house on several occasions “because the sea is almost up to its walls”.

He said that although the President had pledged to build a sea wall, the government was still awaiting loan assistance for the Rf2 million (US$156,000) project.

For now, he continued, residents with homes on the north-eastern corner of the island would have to be relocated when the weather worsened.

As one of the lowest-lying countries in the world, the Maldives is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and its corollary, beach erosion.

In 2007, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted sea level rise of between 18cm and 59cm within the next century would submerge many of the Indian Ocean nation’s islands.

Speaking to Minivan News, Abdulla Shahid, chief coordinator at the disaster management centre, said that no action had been taken to tackle Holhudhoo’s erosion problem yet.

“The main reason is budget difficulties,” said Shahid, who added that over 70 per cent of islands in the Maldives experienced beach erosion.

If budget was not a question, Shahid said he would like to acquire the technical know-how and assistance to build bespoke harbours for each of the islands.

“This is what’s causing these problems. There might be other issues related to climate change but most of these erosion problems are related to harbours,” he said.

The Maldives’ “cut and paste” harbours have been criticised for not taking an island’s specific attributes, such as sand movement, into consideration, resulting in erosion.

Although islands in the Maldives are dynamic and coastal erosion is counterbalanced by subsequent sand accretion, erosion is worsened by man-made activity such as ill-conceived harbours.

Shahid said he was seeking cooperation with other countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, which had experience of designing and building harbours.

Until then, he said, sandbags provided a temporary measure, adding that the disaster management centre had recently sent 1,200 sandbags to Raa atoll Dhuvafaaru to help with the problem.

“We have got our work cut out and we have got nothing but empty coffers,” he said.