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.


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.


Nearly 60 islands hit with water crisis

Aishath Haseena* and her sisters, clutching empty bottles, rushed to the water tank near the mosque as soon as the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officials finished re-filling the tank. It had been empty for over two weeks.

“Water tanks in almost all the houses are empty now. So everyone started to collect water from the public tanks. But, two weeks back, the public tanks also ran out of water,” Haseena, a resident of Hithadhoo in Addu Atoll, told Minivan News today.

While 90 percent of the atoll’s population depend on rain water – often collected in household water tanks as a principal source of water – the reduced rainfall during the dry season (January-June) leaves several islands across Maldives in a severe annual water crisis.

According to the National Disaster Management Center (NDMC), so far this year 58 islands have reported water shortages and asked for emergency water supplies.

“We have received requests for water from 58 islands facing severe water shortages. We are working with the MNDF to supply emergency drinking water to those islands as soon as possible,” NDMC Project Director Hisaan Hassan said.

Among the worst-hit areas were the islands of Addu city, with a population of nearly 30,000. The MNDF is now providing the islands with water from the desalination plant situated on the Southern Regional Harbour on Hithadhoo island.

“People were buying bottled water from shops when the MNDF started refilling the public water tanks, including schools and mosques,” Haseena observed. “People were very worried, because they use rainwater for drinking and bottled water is so expensive. Everyone can’t afford them on a regular basis,” she added.

According to MNDF media official Lieutenant Abdulla Mohamed, last week nearly 10 tonnes of water were supplied to the islands daily.

Meanwhile, Mohamed also noted that 35 tonnes of water were collected from the Felivaru fish processing plant and carried to islands of Baa and Raa atoll on a finish vessel. The water was discharged into both public and household water tanks using pipes, he explained.

“We are also facilitating NDMC to provide water to rest of islands facing shortages” Lieutenant Mohamed noted.


All islands in the Maldives do not have a functioning water supply and distribution network that can ensure sufficient supply of safe freshwater during dry periods, except Male’, Vilingili and Hulhumale’, which are home to over a third of the total population.

While surface fresh water is generally lacking throughout the country, key problems pertaining to freshwater security relate to the of increasingly variable rainfall patterns induced by climatic change and the management of saline groundwater.

Until recently, groundwater was commonly used for all purposes including drinking and cooking, however, following the 2004 tsunami the underground water wells in most islands were contaminated by sewage, waste and salt water – thus increasing the use of rainwater.

However, the rain water storage is limited with an  average household storage capacity of 2500 liters on most islands. And due to the changing weather patterns and prolonged dry periods, the islands experience severe shortage of drinking water, prompting calls for emergency water supply.

Current figures from NDMC show that in 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). The average cost of this service is expected to rise with fuel prices.

NDMC noted that the centre is working to find a sustainable solution to the annual water crisis, which is being “discussed at policy level”.

Meanwhile several internationally funded projects have been initiated over the past years to provide sustainable water solutions.

The Ministry of Housing and Environment and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) last year signed a US$8.5 million project to provide “climate smart freshwater solutions” to three densely populated islands; Ihavandho in Haa Alif atoll, Mahibadhoo in Alif Dhaalu atoll and Gadhdhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu. This project is estimated to provide clean water to more than 6700 people.

The United States government is meanwhile providing US$7.1 million towards an integrated water resource system on Lhaviyani Hinnavaru and Haa alif Dhihdhoo islands, under an agreement signed last year between the two governments. Both islands have approximate populations of 4000.

* Name changed on request


Dead fish washing up on beaches in northern atolls

Large numbers of dead fish have been washing ashore on resorts and inhabited islands in the upper north of the Maldives in Noonu and Haa Atolls, reports the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture.

The dead fish are overwhelmingly red-tooth trigger fish (odonus niger, locally known as vaalan rondu), but include several other species of reef fishes including Acanthurids (surgeon fish) and Serranids.

The Marine Research Centre (MRC) is currently investigating the incident.

MRC Director General Shiham Adam said a series of similar incidents were reported from June-December in 2007. Tests showed the increased presence of the bacteria Staphylococcus in the spleen of fish samples, but the investigation was inconclusive.

“We sent samples sent to the US and it seemed be related to a bacterial infection in the gills that causes them to suffocate,” Shiham explained.

“A lot of people say it is global warming and environmental change. [Fish kill incidents] are not something that normally happens, so we are worried about it,” he said.

Minute changes in the environment during critical periods of a species’ life-cycle could trigger such events, Shiham explained.

A red tide can be a sign of an algal bloom

In a statement, the Fisheries Ministry noted that the Maldives lacked the capacity to deal with such large scale incidents of fish-kill, “so we have to resort to collaboration with institutes and individual parties from overseas. As such we are awaiting results from fish samples which have been sent to laboratories in India and Denmark.”

Marine biologists have also reported ‘red-tides’ in the lagoons and beaches of some resorts, which sometimes attributed to algal blooms, such as trichodesmium.

“Phytoplankton (or algal) blooms are reported to be a very common cause of fish kills around the globe,” noted the MRC’s report into the 2007 fish kill incidents.

“Controlled populations of several groups of potentially harmful algae usually belonging to the dinoflagellates) exist) in the marine environment. When conditions become favourable (nutrient enrichment of the waters, changes in physical conditions of the surrounding waters, etc) the microalgae (usually also associated with the secretion of toxins) populations burst causing mass mortalities of fish,” the report noted.

“These toxins are not necessarily always associated with fish kills, but rather the planktivores that feed on these dinoflagellates accumulate the toxins, which in turn affects higher predators (including human beings) that feeds on the toxin-accumulated fish.”

The statement from the Fisheries Ministry advised the public to not to eat the dead fish or go into murky water, as it may be potentially harmful to health.

The MRC requested that sightings of fish kill incidents and/or red tides be forwarded to MRC staff Ahmed Najeeb ([email protected]) or Faheeda Islam ([email protected]).


Security forces use water cannon on MDP women’s sit-down protest

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and police used a salt water cannons to break up a gathering of nearly 100 female supporters of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) outside President Office on Tuesday afternoon.

The women marched to the President Office around 3:15pm to deliver a set of letters requesting President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to resign, while the rest of the female demonstrators sat down outside the office holding boards bearing slogans including “Where is my vote?” and “Justice now”.

The women from all ages continued to call for President Waheed’s resignation while the police and MNDF on the scene ordered the women to leave the area.

Video footage circulating over the social media then show that the police aimed a high-pressure salt water cannon at the crowd for at least five minutes, but this did little to deter the women, who were then physically picked up by policewomen. Others were pushed back by policemen armed with shields.

Several eye witnesses alleged to Minivan News that “some policeman groped the female demonstrators, tore their clothes and used foul language” during the removal.

“Two women’s clothes were torn from the shoulders when the policemen tried to grab them. One woman’s veil was taken off and I saw her shouting at the police,” one of the demonstrator told Minivan News over the phone.

Another eye witness reported seeing a woman who was “dragged by her feet” after she refused to leave. “The women tried to shove him off and cover her body because her blouse was torn, but the policeman grabbed her hands,” the source claimed.

Several women were seeing resisting arrest while the policewomen attempted to grab some of the women hosed down by the salt water. Although, the crowds were dispersed from the President Office, the women continued to voice their discontent on the nearby streets until nightfall.

Police media official, Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam, told Minivan  News that female protesters forcibly crossed the police cordons and  “intimidated the police”.

Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz at a press conference yesterday had vowed that police would “become feared by the most dreaded criminals”.

“[The women] forcibly crossed into the area near the President Office after intimidating the police guards at the cordon blocking the area. They were ordered to leave the area repeatedly before the police used force to remove them,” Shiyam said.

Responding to allegations that police used excessive force to subdue the gathering, Shiyam said “If anyone has any complaints they can follow the due process and file a complaint.”

“What we used was water. It is the least brutal force used to disperse a gathering,” he further added.

Speaking to Minivan News today, former Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa said that before the protest outside the President Office nearly 500 female MDP supporters went to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) to file a complaint over the police brutality.

She claimed the commission has so far failed to take any action.

“As we were coming back some went to the President Office to deliver letters to request Waheed  resign. So while they did that, we sat down to peacefully protest. However, almost immediately police came and used a high pressure water hose,” said Dr  Zulfa, who was also at the sit-down demonstration.

“There is no way to end this brutality,” she said. “The international community has failed to see this day after day. Anywhere else in the world this would be a shameless military coup.”

Meanwhile, later in the evening HRCM had issued  a press statement condemning the police for using “excessive force” against the women while controlling today’s demonstration.

The commission also urged the police to to respect the people  right to peaceful demonstration and asked them to refrain from any actions that will harm the dignity of women.

Women have been at the front line in MDP’s political movement to bring early elections, since the party’s candidate, former President Mohamed Nasheed was deposed in what the party calls a bloodless coup.

Recently, Amnesty International has also condemned attacks on a group of MDP women supporters in Addu Atoll by the security forces, after obtaining testimonies from victims of a crackdown on demonstrators at a rally during the recent visit to the MDP stronghold by new President.


Maldives to host 2013 World Tourism Day

The Maldives will host the 2013 World Tourism Day celebrations under the theme ‘Tourism and Water – Protecting our Common Future.’ The event is a function of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, which chose the Maldives over contender Iran.

The decision was made during the 19th General Assembly in Gyeongju, South Korea, held from October 10 to 13. Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa and Deputy Director General Moosa Zameer Hassan were among the 600 participants from member countries.

Tourism Ministry Deputy Director General, Moosa Zameer Hassan, said Iran conceded its bid for the event when the Maldives joined the running.

Tourism accounts for nearly 70 percent of the Maldives’ GDP indirectly, and 30 percent directly. Recent shifts in the global economy have brought a new wave of tourists from Asia, which has made the Maldives Conde Nast’s second-most popular tourist destination at a time of global recession.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the VVIP Koimala Executive Lounge at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), Tourism Minister Dr Zulfa said tourism should be at the center of Maldives socioeconomic development. “Because tourism, of course, is our number one industry, and everything we do should center around making the product even more perfect than it is today.”

Hassan said the event was highly relevant to the Maldives.

“Tourism and environment are closely related to the future of the Maldives,” he observed. Although the event is a still two years away, Hassan said the Maldives hoped to take the opportunity to “provide our viewpoint to the U. N. on these issues, and portray our country and its message for this theme to the world.”

Although Hassan could not provide specifics, he was confident that the Maldives’ message in 2013 “will be about supporting tourism and environment in order to protect the Maldives, improve the quality of life for local Maldivians, and benefit foreign visitors and investors.”

Various public and private groups have lately taken steps to merge tourism and environmentalism.

Maldives Game Fishing Association (MGFA) is moving forward with a tag-and-release game fishing competition, to be held November 9-12 in and around North and South Male’ and Vaavu atolls. MGFA Committee Member Tiffany Bond previously said the event would introduce a new sport for tourists and locals while promoting conservation-friendly methods. “In many ways, it’s another feather in the tourism hat,” she said.

World Tourism Day is set for September 27 of each year. Next year’s celebration will be hosted in Spain under the theme ‘Tourism and Sustainable Energy–Powering Sustainable Development.’

Hassan concluded with a reflection on the importance of hosting World Tourism Day in the same year as the next presidential election.

“Twenty-thirteen is going to be a big year for the Maldives. By hosting an international event like this, we will be in a positive position for moving forward,” he said.


Four students and principal drown on school excursion

Almost two-thirds of Male’ attended the funeral on Friday for the principal of Hiriya School and four female students, who drowned off Huraa in Kaafu Atoll during a school fisheries science trip.

The bodies of grade nine students Nash-ath Saeed, Mariyam Naza, Aishath Saniha, Mariyam Shaiha and Hiriya Principal Ali Nazim were brought to Male’ in the afternoon.

The group of students left Hiriya School at 5:45am on Friday morning for a fisheries science field trip. A component of the trip involved snorkelling in an area used regularly by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) for training exercises.

Students entered the sea around 9:30am, accompanied by the school principal.

Haveeru reported sources as saying that Nazim died trying to single-handedly rescue the students, who were allegedly unable to swim when they were caught in eight feet of water in a lagoon north-east of Huraa. The area is known for having very strong currents.

Sun Online reported that Nazim attempted to rescue eight students who found themselves in trouble, and was able to save four before he died.

Sources at the funeral told Minivan News that the panicked students grabbed the principal when he reached them and he was unable to rescue the remaining children.

Relatives who attended the funeral said that the students were not asked whether they knew how to swim, and blamed the school management. No life jackets were taken on the trip, one source claimed, although this was unverified.

Haveeru reported that eight teachers accompanied the school trip of 32 to Huraa, and staff had the necessary first aid requirements.

The bodies were brought to Male’ in a speedboat around 10:40 from nearby Four Seasons resort. Meanwhile, the rest of the students returned yesterday afternoon and parents were summoned to attend the school.

The bodies were first brought to Aasahara cemetery in Galolhu, but due to the large number of mourners attending the funeral, their bodies were moved to the Islamic Centre.

The bodies were scheduled to be laid to rest after Isha prayer at 7:30pm, but of the large numbers the faces of the deceased were only covered at 10:30pm.

Hiriya school principal Ali Nazim

News of the tragedy quickly spread around Male’ and had a profound impact on the city, with reports of many parents ringing their children and begging them not to go in the water.

President Mohamed Nasheed telephoned the families of the deceased, and later announced that the national flag would be flown at half mast for three days.

Education Minister Shifa Mohamed is returning early from her trip to Australia and is expected to arrive in Male’ tomorrow.

Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh said a joint investigation into the incident had been launched by the police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).


Up to 11 billion litres of drinking water from Alaska each year for Indian Ocean regions

A water hub near Mumbai will distribute drinking water to the Middle East, and West and South Asia, according to the Texan company S2C Global Systems.

The water will be shipped from Sitka Blue Lake Reservoir on Baranof island off the coast of Alaska, to a port south of Mumbai.

From the hub, smaller ships will transport water to shallower ports, such as Umm Qasr in Iraq, according to S2C’s press release.

Read more


Pollution in water surrounding Malé poses serious health risks, warn doctors

Sewerage and contaminants infiltrating the water and reefs around Malé have been a concern for many years, but as the population grows, so does the amount of sewerage going into the water, and the health and environmental risks this could pose are spiralling.

Business Development Manager at the Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC), Hassan Saeed, said waste in Malé is simply “disposed into the sea.”

He said at the moment there is no governing law that prohibits sewerage from being dumped into sea, and it is just being discharged at 50-100 metres below the surface.

Saeed said the seweage is not treated before being discharged, but is collected from households and then directed to the sea.

“So far it’s safe,” Saeed said. “We are discharging it into deep water and the currents take it away from the island.”

He said the MWSC has tested the waters near the swimming tract and artificial beach, and the Ministry of Health has also done independent studies.

He noted that the discharge pipes near the swimming areas have been extended up to 600 metres in length, to ensure they are taken further away from swimmers. “We have tested near the tract and we have found it is safe in that area,” he said.

The issue of safety had been raised before, he said, and added the government is looking into investing in treating the water.

“We are also ready to do that, the treatment of sewage,” he said, “but total investment is very high. We might have to ask the public to pay for it, it’s very costly.”

Saeed explained a lot of land space was needed for a water treatment plant and would require a high investment. He noted the project could also be carried out on a barge, if necessary, but said the cost for that would probably be higher than doing it on land.

“If we have to do it in a floating area, then we will need a lot of investment,” he added.

Garbage around Malé harbour
Garbage around Malé harbour

Medical concerns

Dr Abdul Azeez Yousuf from Malé Health Services Corporation said pollution in the water is a concern, since it is “a question of considerable contamination” and added there is “not an easy solution” to the problem.

He noted that since it’s not just sewerage in the water, but also many chemicals, it could cause many diseases, including ear and throat infections diarrhoeal diseases.

Dr Yousuf said the government had looked into the issue in the past and “have done some damage minimising” to improve the state of the water in the artificial beach and swimming tract.

The biggest problem, Dr Yousuf said, are all the boats in the harbour. “They don’t have proper sewerage disposal,” he said. “It goes straight into the sea.”

Medical doctor at the Central Clinic in Malé, Dr Ahmed Razee, said he has treated cases of gastro-enteritis caused by infections from the water.

“I am able to say very emphatically that yes, people can develop gastro-enteritis from swimming in Malé lagoon,” Dr Razee said.

He noted that “theoretically, the possibility [of getting gastro-enteritis] is very much real,” and “in medicine what we say is if something is possible, it will happen.”

But he added that “as far as the local population is concerned, and people who are continuing to go swimming, even if there was an infection, they would probably all have immunity to it, most of the common organisms.”

He explained it’s like traveller’s diarrhoea, “because you’re not [as vulnerable] to the germs that are in your surroundings.”

Dr Razee said the more “ominous thing is the presence of typhoid in the water and enteric organisms.” He said although enteric typhoid has been almost “wiped out” in Malé, “we do see some sporadic cases.”

He noted though, due to constant travelling between the Maldives and neighbouring Sri Lanka and India, “we cannot definitely say that the few cases we have seen have been locally infected.”

People get typhoid fever from contaminated water, Dr Razee explained, and noted it is a “bacteria which is excreted in the stool, so where the stool goes, the bacteria goes”.

He said “the waters are polluted with bacteria” that could cause digestive infections, and was mostly due to the boats in the customs area of Malé.

“There are a lot of boats which are more or less permanently moored there, and they are using the sea as a toilet,” he said. Additionally, “the sewage that is treated in Malé is not treated to eliminate bacteria, so it’s almost raw sewage, in an unrecognisable form, that is being let out into the sea.”

Dr Ramzee was considerably angry at those working in sewerage disposal. “These people are making so much profit, where is their social responsibility?”

“They, as professionals and scientists, know they are not doing what they are supposed to be scientifically doing,” he said, adding “it is the responsibility of the sewage company to ensure they do not pollute the water. They make millions of dollars out of these poor folks.”

Media Coordinator for Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) Zeenath Ali Habib said “we haven’t got any cases regarding the matter” and it is “not a concern” for the hospital.

Environmental impact

fish feeding off sewerage which is discharged every half an hour
Fish feeding off sewerage vented from a Male outlet

Ali Rilwan from environmental NGO Bluepeace says his organisation is “concerned with the contamination from sewage” seeping into the coral around Malé reef.

Rilwan said “there are all sort of things” contaminating the water, including heavy metals. The contaminants are reaching Malé reef from five outlets, he said, noting that “the reef is decaying.”

Another major concern is these contaminants reaching people through the food chain; if the fish get infected, people who eat it could also be infected.

Photographs courtesy of