MET office issues yellow alert as South-West Monsoon approach

The Maldives Meteorological Service has issued a yellow alert and warned of bad weather in the coming days.

According to office, heavy rain will be experienced through out the country in the next 24 hours. While the seas are expected to remain relatively calm for most areas, winds may reach up to 30 miles per hour during showers.

Isolated heavy thunderstorms are to be expected in central and northern atolls.

The office advised safe travel and being on alert when travelling in this weather. According to the office the weather in south is good compared to the northern areas.

According to the office the weather change is due to the changing of the monsoon winds. The South-West Monsoon, locally known as Hulhan’gu Moosun begins on 8 April according to traditional weather calendars, and will continue until 9 December.

Heavy winds are usually experienced during this period.


World Bank urges climate change adaptation support for the Maldives

The World Bank has expressed the urgent need for concerted efforts to support the Maldives in adapting to climate change, due to a projected 115 centimetres of sea level rise by 2090.

This, in addition to other climate impacts posing “disastrous consequences” for livelihoods and health, were noted in a recently released scientific report that “demands bold action now”.

The World Bank’s 2012 Turn Down the Heat report concluded a 4 degree Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) global temperature increase is expected by the end of the 21st century unless concerted action is taken immediately.

This year’s Turn Down The Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience World Bank report, builds upon those findings to illustrate the range of climate change impacts the developing world is currently experiencing and outlines “an alarming scenario for the days and years ahead – what we could face in our lifetime.”

“This second scientific analysis gives us a more detailed look at how the negative impacts of climate change already in motion could create devastating conditions especially for those least able to adapt. The poorest could increasingly be hit the hardest,” stated World Bank Group President Dr Jim Yong Kim, in the report’s foreword.

“We are determined to work with countries to find solutions,” Kim continued. “But, the science is clear. There can be no substitute for aggressive national mitigation targets, and the burden of emissions reductions lies with a few large economies.”

Based on the report’s findings, the World Bank has highlighted the urgent need for concerted efforts to support the Maldives in adapting to climate change.

As one of the lowest-lying countries in the world, with an average elevation of 1.5 meters above sea level, the Maldives is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise.

“The Maldives is one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change impacts and has set best practice examples in adapting to climate change consequences,” stated Ivan Rossignol, World Bank Acting Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

“The World Bank is committed to supporting the government of Maldives. The current situation is beyond intellectual debates on climate change. A concerted effort is needed to act now while we still can make a difference,” said Rossignol.

With the average global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius expected “in the next decades”, island economies like the Maldives, will be impacted by extreme weather patterns and rising sea levels, the report determined.

“With South Asia close to the equator, the sub-continent would see much higher rises in sea levels than higher latitudes, with the Maldives confronting the biggest increases of between 100-115 centimetres,” the report warned.

The South Asian region is projected to experience a 115 centimetre sea level rise increase by the 2090s in a 4 degree Celsius world, while a 60-80 centimetre increase is expected to occur with two degrees Celsius of warming.

“[However,] the highest values (up to 10 centimeters more) [are] expected for the Maldives. This is generally around 5–10 percent higher than the global mean.” There is a 66 percent change sea level rise will exceed 50 centimeters by the 2060s, noted the report.

In addition to sea level rise, the compounded impacts of increased temperatures and extremes of heat, increased intensity of extreme weather events (including flooding and tropical cyclones), and changes in the monsoon pattern are already occurring and are anticipated to worsen, according to the study.

This will strain already vulnerable water resources, crop yields, and energy security in the Maldives, as well as the South Asian region, the report highlighted.

“Disturbances to the monsoon system and rising peak temperatures put water and food resources at severe risk. An extreme wet monsoon, which currently has a chance of occurring only once in 100 years, is projected to occur every 10 years by the end of the century,” stated the study.

“The consequences on livelihoods and health [in the Maldives] could be disastrous… Even at present warming of 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels, the observed climate change impacts are serious and indicate how dramatically human activity can alter the natural environment upon which human life depends,” it continues.

“The risks to health associated with inadequate nutrition or unsafe drinking water are significant: childhood stunting, transmission of waterborne diseases, and hypertension and other disorders associated with excess salinity [due to saltwater intrusion from sea level rise],” the report noted. “Other health threats are also associated with flooding, heat waves, tropical cyclones, and other extreme events.”

“[Meanwhile,] dense urban populations [such as the Maldives’ capital Male’] would be especially vulnerable to heat extremes, flooding, and disease,” according to the study’s findings.

The report also warns of the potential “domino effect” climate impacts can create that ultimately affect human development, such as the decimation of coral reefs creating cascading impacts on local livelihoods, and tourism.

Climate change impacts may also increase the likelihood of conflicts occurring, according to the study.

Ultimately, climate change impacts – particularly sea level rise – may force Maldivians to migrate, which “can be seen as a form of adaptation and an appropriate response to a variety of local environmental pressures”.

“The potential for migration, including permanent relocation, is expected to be heightened by climate change, and particularly by sea-level rise and erosion,” the report stated. However, it cautioned that population relocation poses “a whole set of other risks”.

New technological solutions and international cooperation are a must to adapt to and change the current trajectory of climate change impacts on growth and poverty reduction efforts, the study concluded.

“I hope this report will help convince everyone that the benefits of strong, early action on climate change far outweigh the costs,” said World Bank Group President Dr Jim Yong Kim.

“This report demands action. It reinforces the fact that climate change is a fundamental threat to economic development and the fight against poverty,” declared Kim.


Authorities on alert for further flooding as heavy rainfall forecast to ease

The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) has warned more atolls could be affected by severe flooding that has damaged property and threatened ground water supplies on 24 inhabited islands across the Maldives over the last few days.

A NDMC spokesperson today told Minivan News that it was still assessing the level and cost of damage caused by heavy rains and strong winds that have slammed parts of the country, identifying ensuring clean water supplies as the most pressing challenge facing authorities at present.

The adverse weather has been linked to low pressure resulting from cyclone Nilam, which had been active in the Bay of Bengal.

However, disaster management officials said that the situation in the country had not changed drastically since yesterday, with no more islands as yet suffering from severe floods. Fears about the spread of diseases resulting from contaminated ground water have also so far proved unfounded, authorities have claimed.

Police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers along with government authorities and local councils are presently continuing efforts to ensure the public are provided with sufficient drinking water and other vital supplies.  Authorities are also said to have begun trying to assess the levels of damage from the flooding.

The government has itself announced that MVR 10 million had now been made available from a contingency component in the national budget to provide what it called “immediate relief” to stricken islands in need of supplies such as pillows, blankets, sheets and foods.

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza today said that although the MVR 10 million provided by the Majlis would not be sufficient to cover the total damages sustained from the adverse weather, the funding was expected to ensure vital cleaning supplies and other items could be provided to stricken islands.

“Right now we understand that the [weather] forecast is expected to improve and we anticipate that the MVR10 million is sufficient to provide immediate relief like pillows and bed sheets, which are the main items damaged in flooding,” he said.

Abbas said that authorities were preparing to begin assessing the full extend of the damage from the adverse weather, but added that this process might not be completed for a few weeks.

Monsoon rain

The Maldives Meteorological Department meanwhile has said that the severe weather patterns resulting from the cyclone – which had now weakened – appeared to have eased to normal rainfall levels experienced in the country during the annual southwest monsoon or “wet season”.

Met Office Spokesperson Ali Shareef told Minivan News that while rainfall was still expected in the country’s central and southern regions, it would not be in the “extraordinary” levels that had fallen earlier in the week.  Shareef added that forecasts had predicted that the adverse weather patterns would begin to clear by the end of Friday (November 2).


Of the 24 inhabited islands reported to have been adversely affected by heavy rain this week, Hoarafushi in Haa Alif atoll is deemed by the NDMC to have been most severely affected.

As of yesterday, 95 households were reported to have been flooded, affecting an “estimated 600 people.”

Disaster Management Centre Project Officer Hisan Hassan, present on the island today, said that heavy rains now appeared to have cleared up despite ever present cloud. The MNDF and other authorities had also begun a chlorination process on the island.

Hassan added that supplies of flour and sugar had also been received with “beneficiaries lists” presently being drawn up by authorities before they begin distribution. Flooded homes had also since been cleared of water, while the the island had not appeared to have suffered any significant “structural damages”.

Hassan claimed that due to the flooding, septic tank systems on the island, as well as ground water and wells, had been contaminated.

“It will likely take a few days for water to be drinkable,” he said. “Every house has been provided with two five litre bottles of water to meet demand.”

Hassan added that operations on the island were ultimately returning to “normal” with no severe injuries being reported by health officials.

“The health centre here is also ready in case a situation arises concerning outbreaks of disease,” he added.

Heavy rains that started in the late afternoon on Monday caused flooding of up to five feet, according to police. Thick torrential rains that started around 4:30pm on Monday reportedly lasted non-stop until dawn on Tuesday.

The MNDF Northern Area Command meanwhile launched efforts in collaboration with island councils on Monday to pump water from the affected northern islands, including Haa Alif Baarah and Haa Dhaal Hanimadhoo in addition to Hoarafushi.  Hoarafushi, one the of the northernmost islands in the Maldives, has a population of over 2,000 people.


Political turmoil and lack of cash challenging supply of drinking water to islands

Islands are hoping for a reprieve to water shortages as the dry season ends, while political turmoil stalls drinking water supply projects.

The Maldives’ Disaster Management Centre has said long-term strategies are being developed to address ongoing drinking water shortages affecting 117 inhabited islands this year alone. The focus comes as some local authorities raise concerns over the level of financial support set aside to assist with dwindling water supplies.

Disaster Management Centre Project Officer Hisan Hassan told Minivan News that in just a “short space of time”, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) had moved to refill public water tanks on 86 of the 117 islands that have raised concerns over water availability.

Local authorities in Addu Atoll have said that as the country’s “dry season” – resulting from the north-east monsoon – draws to an end for this year, heavier rainfall is expected to partly alleviate short-term pressures on island water supplies. However, the same authorities stressed that finance remains a key challenge to ensure water demand can be met in the future through projects like desalination plants and collection tanks.

Looking beyond the drinking water shortages that have arisen during the first four months of 2012, Hisan Hassan claimed a cabinet paper was now being prepared to outline longer-term measures for managing water supplies across the country. He said that the paper focuses on dividing the country into seven administrative regions that would take a more localised approach to shore up water supplies. An emergency operation had already been established to collect information from local islands on the current scale of water supply issues as part of this new focus, according to Hassan.

With a further 13 islands said to be facing uncertainty over their remaining reserves of drinkable water, the Disaster Management Centre said budgetary issues were a strong concern in dealing with possible demand surplus.

Hassan said that with the the country’s south-west monsoon wet season commencing this month, heavier rainfall was expected to be seen in the next few days on a number of islands dealing with low water supplies.

“Met Office predictions have suggested we will see heavy rain in the country’s north and south atolls,” he said. “We do not have confirmed information on this, so we will checking these weather patterns to see if the rain will replenish supplies.”

Minivan News reported last month that in the country’s southerly Addu Atoll, an estimated 90 percent of the local population were reliant on rainfall to bolster their drinking water supplies. Numerous islands in the atoll are said to experience severe supply issues for drinking water annually as a result.

Tsunami impact

Hisan Hassan claimed that the issue of island water supplies had been an ongoing problem for the Maldives since 2004, when a large number of islands were affected by the December 26 tsunami that devastated the wider South Asia region.

“What has happened was that after the tsunami in 2004, 80 percent of islands including the country’s resort properties were flooded with salt water,” he said. “This salt water contaminated ground water, which is the main source of drinking water for many islands.”

From a meteorological perspective, Met Office Deputy Director General Ali Shareef said that the levels of rainfall during the first four months of the current year had been below the national average for the period.

Though unwilling to speculate whether the patterns were part of a trend, Shareef claimed that similar below average rainfall had been recorded over the same period of time in both 2011 and 2010. He added that temperature – another issue likely to impact water consumption – was found to have been consistent in recent years.

The Met Office said the issue of rainfall was just one of a number of factors that had compounded water supply issues of late.

With a growing national population, Shareef said he believed that another concern was over the capacity of the nation’s water collection tanks, which he contended were increasingly struggling to meet demand.

“The water shortages are not completely based on the amount of rain. This year’s [average] rainfall is just about higher than in 2011,” he said. “We may also need to look at how consumers in the country are using their water supplies.”

Addu Atoll is one area that has experienced ongoing problems with maintaining drinking water levels. A number of islands in the atoll such as Feydhoo and Hithadhoo have requested assistance in boosting their supplies.

Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig said that in addressing these concerns, some local resort properties, as well as the MNDF’s southern command had been “very supportive” during the last few years in helping to maintain water supplies to the region.

“The MNDF have been very supportive since day one. We have also been getting support from certain resorts that have actually been supplying free water,” he said.

According to Sodig, with the 2012 dry season now having officially passed, an anticipated increase in rainfall was expected to alleviate present concerns about water levels.

“We’re getting enough rain now and I think the problems [with water supplies] will be solved for the moment,” he added.

Looking ahead to the next year, Sodig claimed financial support was proving to be the key challenge in ensuring sufficient supplies of drinking water to the public.

“The regional port here for example has a desalination plant that can distribute water. The MNDF also has one as well, though this is smaller in capacity,” he said. “There are enough desalination plants here to produce water, so the challenge remains a financial one. At present we are buying water from desalination plants at Rf90 per tonne (US$6).”

Sodig alleged that despite providing financial support back in 2009 and 2010 to aid water supply efforts , the Disaster Management Centre had not been providing as much economic assistance of late.

He added that last year, the government had initiated a multi-million dollar water management and sanitation project in collaboration with a foreign infrastructure specialist.

According to Sodig, the potential benefits of the project are expected to be seen in the next few months through the provision of water supplies directly to homes on the island of Hithadoo.

He raised concerns about the long-term viability of the part government-funded project, due in part to political uncertainty following the controversial transfer of power on February 7.

“Right now the project is trying to get a loan from a UK-based company,” he claimed. “However, this has been withheld due to the political situation here.  The loan will not be handed over until elections are held.”

Asked about the challenges facing the government in addressing the country’s water supply shortages, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad requested Minivan News contact the local water board.

“If you were in another country, you wouldn’t contact the White House or Buckingham Palace about water shortages,” he said.