People’s Majlis disrupted after disorder over water crisis

Allegation of assault against opposition MPs followed disruption in the People’s Majlis today as MPs attempted to debate the ongoing Malé water crisis.

Water services have been cut off from the capital for six days following a fire at the capital’s sole desalination plant.

The Majlis convened today – with debate on the proposed 2015 state budget and an urgent motion of the water crisis on the agenda. But proceedings were prematurely concluded after numerous points of order were raised by the opposition MPs.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mariya Didi expressed her discontent that the parliament was receiving running water while water services for Malé residents were disrupted.

“While there is no water for the general public, there is water in the parliament. There is even running water in the toilets,” local media reported Mariya as saying.

This subsequent commotion saw Mariya standing in front of the Speaker of the Parliament Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed in protest, while former Speaker of the Majlis and MDP MP Abdulla Shahid has alleged he was attacked by members of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Shahid had since submitted a letter addressed to the speaker urging an investigation, while the MDP released a statement condemning the attack on Shahid and alleging an additional attack on Mariya by a pro-government MP.

However, PPM Parliamentary Group Leader Ahmed Nihan has denied the attacks when speaking with local media.

“Shahid started calling for the resignation of the government during the commotion. Some of our younger MPs went near the table and then there were some disagreements,” Nihan told Haveeru.

Questioning the water fund

The MDP also raised several queries regarding the US$20 million ‘Malé water crisis management fund’ set up by the government in order to recover the cost of dealing with the situation.

Speaking at a press conference today, MDP Vice Chairperson Ali Niyaz said that the government’s demands for US$20 million without a detailed breakdown of how the money is going to be spent might lead to corruption.

“Even though MWSC managing director is present during the press conferences, he has not been given any opportunity to speak and we have not received any information on the damages from a technical viewpoint,” complained Niyaz.

Following calls from the defence minister not to politicise relief efforts, Niyaz said that the party is not trying to politicise the US$20 million fund but was demanding answers and correct information from the technical staff at the MWSC rather than the “political figures” in the president’s task force.

The team assigned by President Abdulla Yameen to deal with the crisis includes Minister of Defence Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim, Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed, Minister of Environment Thoriq Ibrahim, and Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Shainee.

Meanwhile, 5 people were arrested last night at a protest voicing the public’s frustrations with the government’s handling of the water crisis.

A police media official told Minivan News that the people were arrested for disobeying police orders and that all have now been released.

The MDP denied involvement in the protests, saying that the protests did not feature any of the MDP flags and that it was merely people expressing their frustrations with the government.

Related to this story

No fall back for disaster of this magnitude: President Yameen

Government seeks US$20 million in donations to repair Malé’s desalination plant

President Yameen to return to Maldives as water crisis enters third day

UN Maldives commends government’s response in water crisis, opposition condemns


Government seeks US$20 million in donations to repair Malé’s desalination plant

Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim has said foreign aid will be sought as repairs to Malé’s water desalination plant are expected to cost US$20 million.

Speaking at a press briefing of the president’s task force this morning, Nazim called for donations, revealing that US$1.5 million had already been received.

Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has revealed that an unnamed Saudi donor had already gifted US$1 million, while discussions with the Saudi, Qatari, and Kuwaiti governments were ongoing.

Government offices and schools remain closed in the capital today as the water crisis – caused by a fire at the Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) last week – enters its third day.

As foreign aid continues, government officials have assured there is sufficient water supplies, although difficulties remain in transmitting the limited supplies being produced by the MWSC to all 130,000 inhabitants.

“Because Malé is so congested, larger quantities and higher pressure is needed to reach higher floors,” Minister at the President’s Office Mohamed Hussain Shareef told Minivan News, assuring that the situation would continue to improve despite being a “logistical nightmare”.

Up to two of the MWSC’s nine reverse osmosis plants have been restored, he explained, although the need for custom built replacements were causing delays.

“Every time we fix a panel, more water is getting pumped into the bore hole. We have been withholding some in order to build pressure.”

“Unfortunately, the capital is so big that until we repair the panels, there is no way we can provide 24hr running water,” said Shareef.

Defence Minister Nazim told the media that water will turned on between 10pm and 12am this evening, with new panels expected to arrive from Singapore on Wednesday.

Emphasising the scale of the problem, Shareef said that the plant normally produces 20,000 metric tonnes per day, of which 80 percent is consumed.

MWSC had one day’s worth of supplies at the time of the fire, he explained, directing further enquiries regarding contingency plans to the company, which was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

Asked about the cause of the fire, Shareef said that eyewitness accounts had suggested an electrical problem, although forensic teams were still investigating.

Aid efforts continue

Shareef applauded the efforts of citizens of Malé, rubbishing reports of violence and unrest carried in the international media.

“When something happens here, people work together – there is a spirit of camaraderie,” he continued. “ Even the boy scouts are helping”.

As health authorities release information for the safe use of water, Shareef assured that all donated water was being checked: “At the moment, there are no health risks at all”.

The Maldives National Defence Force – which continues to distribute water between 2pm and 6pm today – has explained that water is available from 27 ‘mobile points’ as well as the capital’s ten designated distribution centres.

“The mobile points are mainly aimed at bakeries, restaurants, and places serving food, but can be accessed by the general public also,” explained Spokesman Major Hussain Ali.

The Ministry of Health yesterday urged Maldivians to eat food prepared at home during the crisis, while many restaurants in the capital have begun to offer reduced menus on disposable plates.

Information distributed by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) told people to only drink water that has been boiled or filtered – particularly rainwater – warning that well-water was not recommended for drinking or cooking.

Bottled water should be used only for drinking, with alternative sources used for hygiene and other purposes the HPA continued.

Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission has revealed that INS Deepak – carrying 800 tonnes of fresh water, with the capacity to produce 200 tonnes of fresh water per day – is expected in Malé later today.

As of yesterday evening, Indian aircraft have provided just under 300 tonnes of water while INS Sukanya arrived on Friday (December 5). The tenth Indian plane arrived with a further 38 tonnes this afternoon.

Speaking with local media this weekend, Indian High Commisioner Rajeev Shahare said: “We’re always there for the Maldives and we shall always be”.

The Friendship Association of India-Maldives released a statement yesterday thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the people of India for their “timely assistance”.

“The swift and prompt assistance further reiterates the time-tested, all-weather friendship between the people of our two brother Nations,” read the press release.

Sri Lanka and China have also provided fresh water supplies since the crisis began, with the latter also reported to have donated US$500,000 to MWSC.

Additionally, the Bangladeshi High Commission in Malé has told Minivan News that a naval vessel carrying 100 tonnes of fresh water from Chittagong is expected to reach Malé on Thursday (December 11). The ship also has reverse osmosis facilities.

Related to this story

President Yameen to return to Maldives as water crisis enters third day

Indian aircraft arrives to ease Malé water crisis

Malé water supply cut after fire at MWSC

Nasheed calls for inquiry into MWSC fire


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

Malé water supply cut after fire at MWSC

Alifushi still without water as more islands request emergency water

Ihavandhoo islanders to pray for rain after twelve month drought


Emergency water supplied to Alifushi bacteria infested, says council

The emergency water supplied to Alifushi island contains bacteria and dust, the island’s council has said.

Vice President of the council Ibrahim Shuaib said that, following a water shortage,  the island requested 185 tonnes of drinking water from the government – the capacity of the council’s water tanks.

After the island was  presented with 40 tonnes of water, it was subsequently found to be bacteria infested.

“After we received complaints about the water, we tested a sample from the health center here. They found that there were bacteria and dust in it. So we have asked not to use that water,” Shuaib said.

He said that complaints have officially been filed with the National Disaster Management Center (NDMC) and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

“The EPA asked to send an official letter – we sent that too. But we still haven’t got an answer. Some people are now using that water after boiling,” revealed Shuaib.

Speaking to Vnews NDMC denied the claims, saying that the water was produced at Dhuvaafaru water plant and that no complaints had been received from other islands that had received water from the same plant. Both the EPA and the NDMC are investigating the matter.

With a population of 2700, the council estimates there are approximately 1600 people currently residing on the island. According to the council, the island faces water shortages every year around this time.

Traditionally, Maldivians have depended on groundwater, supplemented by rainwater, for drinking and cleaning. However, the contamination of ground water following the tsunami, and the failure to harvest rainwater, means that water shortages during dry periods are increasingly common.

While every house in capital Malé city is supplied with desalinated water, there are no sustainable systems to supply water on most islands. Water shortages all around the country have become a regular occurrence in the past few years during the dry period – which falls between February and April.

According to the NDMC, during the dry seasons of 2009 and 2010, the Maldivian government supplied desalinated water to over 90 islands at a cost of Rf10 million (US$640,000).

Last year between 3 February and 25 April 2013, some 53 islands reported water shortages to the NDMC. Plans have been underway to find more sustainable solutions to the issue in the past few years.

Minister of State for Environment and Energy Abdul Matheen Mohamed has said that the government was emphasising integrated water management systems in order to make the best use of the resources currently available.

“Our policy is to use the available resources as much as possible,” said Matheen. “Just basically to reduce the water costs.”

Earlier this week he island of Gulhi, in Kaafu atoll, became the first place in the world to produce desalinated drinking water using waste heat from electricity generation.

The project – a joint venture between state electricity supplier STELCO and UK registered charity the Aquiva Foundation – can produce around 8000 litres of water for local consumption.

In January, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development chose the Maldives from amongst 80 applicants to receive concessionary loans worth US$6 million (MVR92 million) for a clean energy project which could produce up to 62 million litres of desalinated water per year.