The United States Government will provide US$7.1 million towards an integrated water resource system on Lhaviyani Hinnavaru and Haa alif Dhihdhoo islands, a project with an estimated total cost of US$7.5 million.
Ground water aquifers on these islands have deteriorated, and residents are experiencing water shortages due to salt water intrusion and poor sanitation practices.
“Funds from this project will prevent water shortages and ensure clean groundwater, reduce coastal erosion, improve sanitation and provide safe drinking water,” said US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Patricia Butenis, at a press conference held in the President’s Office today. “The people on the island will also receive training to take over the management and training of these projects.”
In addition to pooling all major water resources on the islands, the plan aims to strengthen institutional water distribution capacity and governance, particularly during dry spells.
In the dry seasons of 2009 and 2010, the Maldivian government supplied desalinated water to over 90 islands at a cost of Rf10 million. The average cost of this service is expected to rise with fuel prices.
Both islands have approximate populations of 4000. The Government of Maldives hopes to uphold the two islands as models of “climate-resilient islands.”
US Agency for International Development (USAID) has partnered with the Ministry of Housing and Environment, island councils and residents, and provincial utility companies to develop the household water distribution network.
The project, which is part of US President Barak Obama’s Global Climate Change Initiative, will improve clean water circulation, sewage systems, and waste management services. Project workers will also educate island residents on managing coastal erosion, land use, and the marine environment.
Lhaviyani Hinnavaru and Haa alif Dhihdhoo islands received assistance from USAID following the 2004 tsunami, which crippled much of the Maldives. A sewerage system was introduced on Dhidhoo and Hinnavaru received a desalinated water system.
“Climate change becomes a serious issue for us because of its implication on water, among other reasons,” said President Mohamed Nasheed, and the press conference today. “The water table is contaminated by salt water intrusion from sea level rise. We must find other solutions, and this is a substantial grant for our adaptation work.”
At the same time, Nasheed said, “we have to be able to stand on our own feet. We have to tax our economy and fend for ourselves. We are a middle income country and it is not always ethical to ask for donations while there are so many others who are much poorer.”