Alifushi still without water as more islands request emergency water

Alifushi island in Raa atoll has still not received emergency water after the last batch was found unsuitable for drinking.

The council’s tests through the island health center indicated there were bacteria and dust in the water which is currently being tested by Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

Alifushi council President Abdul Latheef said that no water have been delivered to the island since the incident, and that people were depending on bottled mineral water bought from local shops.

While the National Disaster Management Center (NDMC) stated the island authorities had not requested more water, Alifushi council said that they should receive a replacement for the contaminated batch without having to ask.

Seasonal water shortage

Meanwhile, the NDMC has said that 34 islands have requested a total of 2,639 tonnes of emergency water following water shortages this year. Water  has now been delivered to sixteen of these islands.

Water shortages have become a seasonal issue, with 53 islands requesting water  between February 3 and April 25 last year, with similar numbers in previous years.

While no research have been done as to what causes the water shortage, it has been suggested that it is due to the contamination of ground water following the 2004 tsunami.

Traditionally, rainwater when collected is used for drinking as well as water from ground wells. Ground water was also used for cleaning, cooking, and other purposes. Every year during the dry period – particularly from February to April – a number of islands request emergency water.

Stating that the impact of the tsunami on the island was relatively small, Latheef blamed a lack of effective sewage system and having to dispose sewage effluent into ground for the water contamination.

“The population is not small here. For years we have been given the good news of a sewage system. Eight times, I remember,” he said.

Lateef said that just last week a research team from Maldives Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) came to island.

“We have seen so many teams and research being done. But I have no hope that it could actually happen”.

Government response

According to NDMC, the water is bought from MWSC and is then collected from the nearest desalination plant and delivered to the islands by private companies on contract bases.

The councils then sign and approve the water before it is transferred to public water tanks.  The NDMC buys the water from special funds allocated by the Ministry of Finance, with no specific budget allocated for this purpose.

The Alifushi Council president said that the island has a desalination plant gifted to local NGO ‘Vadinge Ekuveri Jamiyyaa’ by the UNDP, though the plant was later handed over to the state-owned FENAKA utility corporation.

“If the council had that plant, we would be producing water right now. But FENAKA has not produced any water for the past two years,” Latheef said, adding that FENAKA produced and distributed forty litres of water daily for every household until they stopped.

When contacted by Minivan News, FENAKA explained that the only person authorised to talk to the media was the managing director who would require a written enquiry.


Extreme weather compels emergency relief from Maldives’ government

Maldivian government authorities are providing emergency services and relief funds to island communities battered by three weeks of “extreme weather”.

The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) issued a statement today (May 15) urging island and atoll councils to report any damage caused by the “harsh weather” as soon as possible.

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik met with officials from the Maldives Police Service, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), the NDMC, and other high-ranking government officials yesterday (May 14) to discuss damages sustained and relief counter measures being taken nationwide.

Waheed provided assurances that government authorities will collaborate with island communities to provide “all the assistance and support needed”. Thus, it was decided state funds will be provided to assist “those islands with maximum damage” through the Ministry of Finance and Treasury’s contingency budget.

State funds will not be released directly to NDMC, instead the Finance Ministry will maintain control of money allocated for relief efforts and “coordinate bills” with the centre, NDMC Project Director Hisan Hassan told Minivan News today.

The exact amount of emergency relief funds will be determined today, Hassan added.

Meanwhile, the MNDF and police have issued precautionary warnings to the public due to the severe weather conditions.

The Coast Guard issued a request yesterday that “all travelers to take necessary precautionary measures before setting on their journeys due to the severe weather with heavy rain and thunderstorms… particularly in the northern and southern regions of the Maldives.”

They recommended travelers test communications sets and obtain updated weather forecasts before embarking on any journeys.

The Coast Guard further stated that average wind speeds of 15-25 miles per hour (mph) in the southern atolls and 7-17 mph are expected in the northern atolls, while wind gusts during thunderstorms will reach 40-50 mph.

Additionally, the police issued an SMS bulletin today also warning the public to “take precautionary measures due to the bad weather”.

A “white bulletin” was also issued by the Maldives Meteorological Service (MET) today, warning that the central atolls can expect average winds speeds of 23-30 mph.

Food shortages and flooding

Thus far damage assessment reports have been submitted by 12 islands from seven atolls – Shaviyani, Meemu, Dhaalu, Thaa, Laamu, Fuvahmulah, and Addu City – representing regions from the far north to the far south of the Maldives, the NDMC told Minivan News today.

Hassan explained that other islands have reported storm-related damage directly to the media or have spoken with the NDMC, but have yet to official report these issues to the centre.

Flooding due to three weeks of severe weather and heavy rain has damaged households, sewerage systems, as well as caused extensive agricultural destruction, according to Hassan.

Food shortages on some islands have resulted from agricultural damage and the disruption of transportation and supply networks due to bad weather.

“All islands import food from Male’, however the seas have been so rough [supply] boats are still in Male’ and unable to reach the islands,” Hassan explained. “Yesterday the State Trading Organisation (STO) announced the they will try to send [food supplies] somehow.”

STO is not providing free food-stuffs to islands, rather they are seeking ways to reach the islands so community shops can restock. Normally, supply boats travel between the atolls at least twice a week, according to Hassan.

“Some small islands’ [residents] are a little afraid to travel to a nearby island [to resupply] because travel is difficult,” he said.

Hassan emphasised that food shortages have not reached “emergency situation” levels.

“For the time being there is no emergency. If an island completely runs out of food, the MNDF is always on board [collaborating] with STO and NDMC, and will send vessels,” said Hassan.

The MNDF and police will deploy and provide first response emergency services, if necessary, he added.

“The MNDF is also assisting with flood relief. They take fire fighting equipment to islands and help pump water,” said Hassan.

“Houses are flooding because they are not built on high platforms, so with one or one and a half feet of flooding, water will rush into homes,” he added.

Hassan emphasised the need for people to “take responsibility” and precautionary measures to ensure their safety in the bad weather conditions.

“They should not wait until flood waters reach knee-high levels and require the MNDF to provide assistance,” Hassan said.

“People should move [their] belongings to higher ground, get rid of old trees and branches, clean their roofs, and collect rainwater in tanks. Also, sandbags should be used to minimise further flooding,” he added.

Ensuring roofs and houses are secure is also essential given the strong winds that have accompanied the recent severe storms.

The NDMC is coordinating with the relevant ministry’s to ensure damages are evaluated and addressed promptly.


Hoarafushi has “returned to normal” after last month’s flooding

Families displaced by last month’s flooding of Hoarafushi have been able to return home following a relief effort by the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC).

Twenty-four inhabited islands were reported to have been affected by the heavy rain, with Hoarafushi in Haa Alif Atoll deemed by the NDMC as the most severely affected.

According to Hoarafushi Island Council Chair Ahmed Mauroof, up to 95 houses were flooded in the area, affecting an “estimated 600 people.”

The NDMC has been working to restore normality on the islands since the flooding. Disaster Management Centre Project Officer, Hisan Hassan, said: “Everyone has been returned to their homes, and I have heard from a councillor on the island that it has returned to normal now.

“Some families are still expecting some aid relief, as many foods, electrical and personal items were destroyed in the floods.”

An initial figure of MVR 10 million (US$648,000) had been made available from a contingency component in the national budget to provide relief to the damaged islands.

A government spokesperson confirmed that a report on the damage has been published.

Joint efforts from the island council, the island’s youth, police, the MNDF, officials of the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) and staff from the nearby Manafaru resort helped to put up sandbags, move furniture and to pump water from clogged up roads.

The floods started with heavy rain in the late afternoon on Monday October 29, causing flooding of up to five feet, according to police. The rains lasted non-stop until dawn on Tuesday.

Other islands affected by the rising waters, including Haa Alif Baarah and Haa Dhall Hanimadhoo were also assisted by the MNDF Northern Area Command.

Speaking to Minivan News last month, Mauroof said: “The cost of damage caused by flooding is expected to rise to millions.

“We formed the task force because our aim is to recover from this as quickly as possible.”

The severe weather had been linked to low pressure from cyclone Nilam, over the Bay of Bengal.