Nolhivaranfaru ground water contaminated as flooding causes septic tank overflow

Severe flooding on Haa Dhaal Atoll Nolhivaranfaru Island has caused a sewage overflow resulting in contamination of the island’s ground water.

According to Nolhivaranfaru Councilor Adham Jaufar, torrential rains on December 18 and 19 caused damage to septic tanks on the island resulting in sewage overflowing in bathrooms and onto the streets.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has issued an alert expressing concern over health risks due to contaminated water, and urged Nolhivaranfaru’s residents to pay attention to cleanliness to avoid the spread of water-borne diseases.

“We appeal to the public to use chlorinated well water in all areas of the island, to only use boiled water or rainwater that has been stored safely for cooking and drinking and to pay particular attention to general cleanliness. We note it is important to wash hands with soap after using the bathroom or before cooking,” a statement by HPA said.

The National Disaster Management Center (NDMC) has said it has distributed chlorine to disinfect wells and puddles on the streets, and the HPA conducted an awareness campaign on health risks.

Although the 1,030 strong population have access to potable drinking water, the sewage overflow has left 47 households without any water for bathing or washing, Jaufar said.

Over 50 residents staged daily protests this week over the lack of safe water, but suspended activities today after an environment ministry team arrived on the island to inspect damage.

Protestors have warned they would resume demonstrations within three days depending on the outcome of the visit.

The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) has drained water from the streets and is now in the process of cleaning and draining overflowing septic tanks.

Jaufar said Nolhivaranfaru requires a sewerage system to prevent sewage overflow in the future.

The worst affected areas are at a lower elevation than the rest of the island, and residents of the 47 houses have to periodically drain septic tanks to avoid overflows, Jaufar said. Maldivian islands are on average only one meter above sea level.

Meanwhile, the NDMC has allocated 100 tonnes of water for Nolhivaranfaru, but the water has not yet been transported to the northern island as there are no mechanisms to store water there.

Head of the Environmental Protection Agency Ibrahim Naeem said the agency is waiting on a report from the ministry team on the extent of the damage.

In addition to a sewerage system, the island would also needs an artificial drainage system, Naeem said.

According to Jaufar, the government had promised a sewerage system in 2012, allocating funds for the project in 2012, 2013, and 2014. But there has been no progress yet.

In early December, a fire at Malé’s desalination plant left the capital’s 130,000 residents without running water. The government declared a crisis, set up water distribution centers throughout the city, and requested foreign governments for assistance.

India, China, and Bangladesh airlifted bottled water, and India sent in ships equipped with desalination plants to produce water for the capital.

Normal operations resumed at the Malé water plant on December 13.

In June, residents of Laamu Atoll Gan also staged protests over a sewage spill on the island following severe damage to the island’s sewerage system.

Related to this story

Malé water supply cut after fire at MWSC

Water distribution to stop as Malé water crisis nears end

Gan Council fears “health disaster” after severe sewage spill


Environment Ministry seeks alternative funding to meet development aims

The Ministry of Environment and Energy will attempt to diversify how it finances infrastructure projects in order to compensate for a reduced budget during 2013.

State Minister for Environment and Energy Abdul Matheen Mohamed told Minivan News that reductions to government expenditure over the next 12 months would create “operational difficulties” in its ability to provide water and sewerage projects to a wider number of islands.

The claims were made as the Environment Ministry yesterday unveiled its work plan outlining developments for the next twelve months that will include water projects across 15 islands and sewerage developments on 47 islands.

Despite these commitments, Matheen stressed that the ministry’s development focus has been limited by parliament last month approving a budget of MVR 15.3 billion (US$992 million). The approved amount had been cut by over MVR 1 billion (US$65 million) from the budget originally presented by the Finance ministry to parliament as part of efforts to curb concerns over a budget deficit.

In order to try and make up for possible shortfalls in spending for development projects, Matheen said private sector collaborations were among initiatives sought by the Environment Ministry.

“Definitely we will be facing operational difficulties due to the budget cuts, so we are trying to diversify the financing sources for the development projects and apply the maximum flexibility in the procurement process,” he explained.

“In addition, we are aiming to increase the private sector participation and contractor financing for project implementation.”

Renewable focus

Along with water and sewerage projects, Matheen claimed that efforts were also under way by the ministry to secure MVR800 million (US$51.9 million) for development of the country’s energy sector.

A key focus of this development would be focused on renewable energy, reflecting ongoing commitments to try and become a carbon neutral nation by the end of the decade.

He added that donor funding and private sector finance was presently being sought as part of this green focus.

According to local media, the Environment Ministry yesterday unveiled that state funding would be supplied for water projects on five islands, as well as the introduction of sewerage systems to a further 32 islands.

Further projects on 13 other islands were reported to be funded through loans, while two sewerage systems would be implemented as part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

According to the Sun Online news service, Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela claimed that MVR315 million (US$20) was to be spent from the state budget to fund environment ministry projects.

Dr Shakeela was reported as saying that an estimated MVR500 million (US$32 million) was needed to fund the total number of water and sewerage projects it had outlined for 2013.

“Due to the budget difficulties we are almost not able to pay salaries in some areas. But we are working through the projects we have in hand and other ways.  We are trying to find a solution by holding discussions with the Finance Ministry,” she was quoted as telling local media.


Back in December 2012, State Minister Matheen claimed that there were “concerns” about the amount of funding allocated to the Environment Ministry in the proposed state budget.

Such concerns were addressed this month by Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad, who pledged to hold discussions with government departments, independent institutions and the Maldives judiciary to try and reorganise their respective spending allocated within the 2013 budget

Despite the efforts to reallocate monies within each ministry, Jihad has maintained that the present state budget was likely to be insufficient to cover costs over the next year. “We will have to submit a supplementary budget this year,” he contended.

The parliamentary committee that reviewed the state budget last month had originally recommended MVR2.4 billion (US$156 million) worth of cuts to state spending.

A number of the committee’s members claimed expenditure could be reduced largely by cutting “unnecessary recurrent expenditures” within the budget such as ministerial spending on foreign trips and office expenses without impacting services.


President Waheed pledges sewerage system, new health centre for Hoarafushi

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has pledged to the people of Hoarafushi in Haa Alif Atoll today that funds would be included in next year’s budget for a sewerage system and new health centre for the island.

Newspaper Haveeru reported today that Waheed gave the assurances to the people of Hoarafushi during a visit to observe damage caused by severe flooding.

The President was accompanied on the trip by independent MP for Dhaalu Meedhoo, Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam.

Shiyam also accompanied Waheed during a recently concluded tour of Dhaalu Atoll, during which the former vice president pledged a number of infrastructure projects for several islands in the atoll.


US foots bill for better water on “climate-resilient islands”

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.”