No fall back for disaster of this magnitude: President Yameen

President Abdulla Yameen has spoken to the public for the first time regarding the Malé water crisis, saying that there could have been no fall back plan for such a crisis.

“We did not have any fall back plan for any disaster of this magnitude. However, we have done extremely hard work to try and bring the situation back to normal,” said the president.

Remarking that the extremely low odds of such an incident occurring had prevented the state-owned Malé Water and Sewerage Company from making plans to deal with the current situation.

Yameen said that five of the nine panel boards at the MWSC had now been fully repaired, estimating that the relief effort would cost US$20m million.

The Maldives’ capital was plunged into crisis on Thursday (December 4) as a fire at MWSC gutted the desalination plant, leaving 130,000 people without running water, leading to the dwindling of bottled drinking water supplies .

“I am not trying to make any excuses for the disaster at MWSC but the company was formed in the early 1980s. The design of the company and the water demand has changed with the population increase in Male.”

“There should be no difficulties with obtaining drinking water. However, there are problems with getting water for washing up and cleaning for people in high rise buildings,” said Yameen.

Large amounts of fresh water have been supplied via a number of international donors, who were thanked by the president.

“I would like to point out that even after some very difficult times for the foreign relations of the country, many nations are aiding the country in this heart wrenching time.”

The government will look into various ways to prevent such an occurrence maybe by dividing up the water grid by wards.”

Meanwhile, members of the president’s task force have told local media that the problem could not be fixed within a “politically desirable” timeframe.

In an interview with Haveeru, Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim said that it would take two weeks to completely recover from the crisis, saying that 50 percent of this would be achieved by the end of the week.

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Shainee said that, while MWSC has utilised a backup plan after the fire, a completely foolproof system was financially prohibitive.

“If we were to look for a 100 percent foolproof system, it would need to be built far from MWSC – in another area.  This occurred within one year this government came into power. We had been preparing for water security,” Shainee told Haveeru.

Minister at the President’s Office Mohamed Hussain Shareef told Minivan News earlier that the residents of Malé consumed around 14,000 metric tonnes of water a day, with the fully functioning plant able to produce around 20,000 tonnes.

The Maldives National Defence Force, working alongside volunteers from the public and civil society, continues to distribute water brought from abroad and from desalination plants on nearby islands.

Bangladesh became the latest country to announce it would send naval vessels with fresh water and desalination capacity, following the arrival of two Indian ships as well as the expected arrival of the Chinese navy.

The INS Deepak was the latest Indian ship to arrive, with 800 tonnes of water and the capacity to desalinate 200 tonnes per day. Deepak’s arrival follows ten Indian aircraft which have brought regular supplies of fresh water since Friday.

The Maldivian Red Crescent today received the first shipment of 5 tonnes of fresh water today, while the UN in Maldives has said that 180 tonnes stored under its premises in Malé requires treatment before it can be handed to the public.

Related to this story

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Indian aircraft arrives to ease Malé water crisis

Additional reporting by Mariyath Mohamed, Ismail Humaam Hamid, and Ahmed Naish

An Indian aircraft has landed  in the Maldives capital Malé to alleviate in the continuing water crisis, as the government reveals it could take between three and five days to restore the capital’s water supply.

The first flight landed at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport at 1:15pm, with two additional flights expected to bring a total of 100 tonnes of fresh water for the people 130,000 inhabitants of  the Maldives’ capital.

Minister of Defence Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim has announced that damage to the Malé Water and Sewerage Company’s (MWSC) reverse osmosis plant could mean it is five days before  normal service can  be resumed.

The capital has been without water for 24 hours after a fire at the MWSC caused extensive damage to the reverse osmosis plant, upon which the capital is dependent for desalinated water.

Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj has said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to do all he can to help the Maldives, after pleas from her Maldivian counterpart.

A statement from the Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs this afternoon has stated tha India, Sri Lanka, the USA and China have pledged assistance.

As well as the flight from India, two Indian ships with desalinating capabilities and one from the US naval vessel are headed to the Maldives, while water is being brought on every flight from Sri Lanka, explained the ministry.

“The president, the people and the foreign minister of Maldives expresses their gratitude to all nations assisting the Maldives is these harsh times,” read the statement.

The Indian High Commission in the Maldives has confirmed that INS Sukanya will arrive in Malé tonight, equipped with two reverse osmosis plants in order to produce water “round the clock”.

“Mindful of the strong friendly and close relations between India and Maldives, India reacted with alacrity and promptness to the request from Maldives for timely provision of water,” said the high commission, revealing that the second flight in expected at 3:40pm.

Large queues quickly formed outside shops yesterday evening as the demand for bottled water prompted the government to declare the situation a disaster, with the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) giving water away at ten designated distribution points.

Home Minister Umar Naseer has said that current reserves have been exhausted, with more fresh water expected from MWSC at 6pm today.

Nazim told the press that authorities were confident supply could be resumed for one in every six hours, while the MNDF has told Haveeru that over 77,000 litres had been brought from water plants in Hulhumalé, Thilafushi, and Thulusdhoo.

After reports that some shops had drastically increased the price of bottled water, the Ministry of Economic Development is said to have warned of severe consequences for retailers hiking prices.

Though some unrest was reported in one store early yesterday evening, police have said no additional incidents were reported overnight, though rumours of some of the capital’s foreign workers being ejected from water lines have spread.

Both the home minister and Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb have issued tweets saying that water will be distributed to all without discrimination.

Former President and Leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has called upon Maldivians to stay calm until the crisis passes. President Abdulla Yameen – currently out of the country on unofficial business – has not yet commented on the situation.

Despite an announcement that water supply would be resumed between 8 and 9pm yesterday evening, the only rain many residents received came in the form of heavy downpour just after 8pm.

As many rushed to collect rainwater – prompting reports of a rush on the sale of buckets – the Health Protection Authority (HPA) has urged caution.

“We request all Malé citizens to take extreme caution when collecting and drinking rain water. All sorts of impurities will be present in water overflow water in roofs. Ensure the water is safe to drink by boiling the water,” Haveeru reported a HPA statement as reading.

The home minister – part of a task force of ministers assigned to deal with the problem – has this morning shared pictures of replacement parts being taken to the MWSC, stating that Singapore’s Hitachi company will assist with the repairs.

Water shortages have become increasingly common in outlying parts of the Maldives, with low-lying islands unable to rely on contaminated ground water supplies.

The crowded capital has long relied on desalinated water, with well-water in the capital unfit for consumption and only utilised for the flushing of toilets in a small number of residences.

Related to this story

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President inaugurates MWSC Production Centre in Maafushi

President Mohamed Nasheed inaugurated the MWSC’s (Malé Water and Sewerage Company) Production Centre in Maafushi on Saturday, which will provide desalinated water to the residents of the island.

President Nasheed noted the government recognised basic utilities like water and sewerage were essential for the development and prosperity of the people.

He said the government was aiming to provide these services in a sustainable manner, but needed support from the private sector which is why the government is pursuing a policy of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) to carry out developmental activities.

President Nasheed also said the government’s wish to create seven provinces was “not for political gain but for the benefit of all citizens.”

He said the government “does not desire to do anything through arguing and fighting in the People’s Majlis,” but is trying to do what is best for the citizens of the country.

He noted if anyone could explain why creating the provinces would obstruct the development of the country, “we are ready to concede.”


Vice President urges companies to fulfil social responsibilities

Speaking at the 15 anniversary function of Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) at the Fen Building, Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed urged all business organisations in the Maldives to give special attention to fulfilling their corporate social responsibility.

Dr Waheed said, as the largest water provider in the country, the MWSC was undertaking a great responsibility.

He called on the company to fulfill its social responsibility and keep in mind the greater benefit of the people, while still working to maximise its profit.

Dr Waheed said clean drinking water and more affordable and accessible services for the less fortunate of the country should be given special consideration.

He said access to clean drinking water and adequate sewerage facilities was a Constitutional right of Maldivians, and it is the state’s responsibility to provide these services.

Dr Waheed said the MWSC had been providing clean water for half the population, and added the government established provincial utilities companies to provide for the rest of the population.

Dr Waheed also presented the company’s annual employee awards.