Five days since the fire at Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) – the capital city’s sole provider of running water – disrupted water supplies, residents and local businesses struggle to make do with the limited resources available.
As politicians begin finger-pointing, the inhabitants of the capital continue to cope with the crisis in any way they can.
The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and the Maldives Red Crescent have been distributing bottled water received as aid from neighbouring countries to citizens since December 5.
The drinking water distributed by the MNDF in this manner is being transported to the capital city voluntarily from nearby islands by local businessman Adam Manik of Galolhu Sentuge, owner of Tug Service Marine Pvt Ltd.
Adam Manik has also taken the initiative to set up nearly a dozen large water tanks near the Water Jetty, where drinking water is dispensed free of charge.
“I purchase the water, transport it to Male’ on my boats and distribute it for free to all and any citizens. I see this as a national effort and will continue to provide this service as long as the current water difficulties continue,” Adam Manik told Minivan News today.
Adam stated that his employees have been working relentlessly for the past 4 days on all his boats.
Three of his boats are being utilised for water transportation – ‘Adam 60’, which has the capacity to carry 200 metric tonnes of water, ‘Ifba’ carrying 60 metric tonnes and ‘Namoona’, carrying 20 metric tonnes.
Meanwhile, Happy Market is currently producing ‘Life’ bottled water at maximum capacity, catering to the public, businesses, and resorts.
Happy Market Purchases and Procurement Manager Akram stated that, while the company is unable to provide unlimited supplies, they are working to sell water at an equitable rate.
The public can at the moment purchase one case of four 5 litre bottles at any of the Happy Market outlets in the city for MVR56 (US$3)
Akram stated that other producers of bottled water are slowly resuming retail, which would stabilise the situation while taking some pressure off the sole seller of bottled water.
Leaving water troubles behind
While the queues at free distribution centres grow shorter, there are reports that many residents of Malé have chosen to travel to other islands, especially nearby Villingili and Hulhumalé – both of which have unaffected supply.
Guest house owners confirm that all accomodation at these islands are now fully booked, while some guesthouses have started a new strategy of only renting rooms to Malé residents on an hourly basis.
Traditionally, December is the time of the year when customary circumcision parties are held in the Maldives – which typically include a week long celebration after young boys undergo the procedure.
Fathimath Waheeda stated that on December 4, she had to move her son from the hospital to Villingili as, due to the water shortage, she could not cater to the multitude of guests who would visit her son’s party.
“I rented a room in Villingili and we are having the party here. Less people turn up, but at least there are no concerns of hygiene or catering here,” she said.
Limited water, Limited services
Local businesses are also facing hardship due to the water troubles, with some opting to temporarily close down business until water services resume.
Others continue to persevere, with many gathering water from distribution centres, or collecting water at the limited dispensing hours.
Fahari Cafe’ – run at the North Harbour of Malé – said it is attempting to run business as usual, assigning one employee the task of going to queue at water distribution centres, while another stays alert to collect water during dispensing hours.
Abdulla Saeed, owner of a food outlet called “Home Delivery” stated that they are following the same process.
“What else can we do? This is the work we do to feed ourselves. We cannot give it up regardless of how difficult it may be,” he said.
Marble Hotel owner Athif Saleem said that guests are aware of the crisis and that therefore very few complaints are received.
“We are providing well water to the guestrooms and notifying them of the water supply dispension hours. We are also using rainwater in the cafe for washing purposes and services are available. However, we are getting fewer local customers in the cafe’ during this crisis,” he explained.
Hair salons are also facing difficulties in providing normal services. Many claimed to be open only to offer a limited number of services – those which require a minimal amount of water usage.
Cyza Salon also spoke of decreased number of customers during the crisis.
“Like most others, we also bring water from the distribution centres. We aren’t getting too many customers these four days but if someone does come, we will try to provide services as best as we can”.
According to Special Task Force member Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer, it will take upto 10 days or more for regular water supply services to resume.