Aa. Thoddoo Island, Maldives – His Excellency Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom, President of the Republic of Maldives, is launching a new integrated water supply system on AA. Thoddoo island today. The system will harness harvested rainwater and water desalination to meet the domestic water demands of the island, helping to protect the island fragile freshwater lens by reducing over-extraction of groundwater. The infrastructure work was contracted to the Male Water & Sewerage Company (MWSC) by the Government of Maldives, which co-financed the venture with GEF under the framework of the Integrated Water Resource Management Project.
In common with low-lying islands around the world, the Maldives is not gifted with an huge resources of freshwater − inhabitants of the archipelago depend on rainwater and groundwater aquifers to meet their needs. In the capital city of Malé desalinated water is supplied to households via a metred network, but on the most of the outlying islands water is drawn from shallow, hand-dug wells and household or community-owned rainwater tanks. The transportation of water is also common in the Maldives, especially during the dry months of March and April.
On Thoddoo, an island located 67 km from the Maldivian capital of Malé, groundwater is heavily exploited for agriculture; about 75 percent of the land is used for the cultivation of papaya, watermelon, betel, chillies and leafy vegetables. Approximately 100 farmers tap into Thoddoo’s freshwater lens on a daily basis, using the water to irrigate their crops. However, the groundwater aquifer is extremely susceptible to contamination from wastewater and agricultural chemicals: it is often foul smelling and discoloured, and in some areas farmers have abandoned fields because the salinity of the groundwater makes it unsuitable for irrigating crops.
Watch the videos of the official launch:
Both farmers and citizens of Thoddoo have expressed concern about the contamination of the island’s freshwater lens and an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) demonstration project has been initiated to resolve the freshwater pollution and over abstraction on the island, and ultimately address the challenge of saltwater intrusion.
The demonstrations project is part of a bigger initiative, the “Integrated Water Resource Management in Atlantic and Indian Ocean Small Island Developing States Project (IWRM AIO SIDS)”, funded by Global Environment Facility (GEF) and aiming at promoting integrated water management in six island: Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Comoros, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe. The United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Development Programme are the implementing agencies. The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) was tasked to execute the project on the ground in partnership with respective national authorities, in this case the Ministry of Environment and Energy through its Water and Sanitation Department.
A major constituent of the demonstration project was establish an integrated water supply system harnessing harvested rainwater and water desalination to meet the domestic water demands of the island. The initiative is expected to provide a yearly mean rainwater supply of 8619m 3 to the each and every 2,000 inhabitants of the island, helping to reduce over-extraction of groundwater.
The GEF kick started the construction of the water supply system by providing the initial funding. It is worth noting that the Government of Maldives invested the remaining 70% of the budget needed, almost 1 million USD, and insisted on extending the reach of the system to all inhabitants of the island, demonstrating great ownership in the project.
During the inauguration ceremony His Excellency Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom, the President of the Republic of Maldives, pointed that international organisations assisted in financing the project in collaboration with the Government. He added“We want to express our gratitude to the UN for their continuous support and assistance to the Maldives.”
Aside from the infrastructure development component, the project also has a “soft” component that will educate and sensitise the people of Thoddoo Island, especially farmers, about the fragile nature of the freshwater lens and the need to protect its integrity. A Water Committee for Thoddoo Island has been created to this effect and gathers representatives from every walk of island life, from the chairperson of the Island Council to farmers, women, schools and non-governmental organisations. The Water Committee is expected to play a key role in the management of water resources on Thoddoo in the future. One of its biggest challenges is to address the excessive abstraction of water from the freshwater lens, which is causing its depletion and increased salination. Another challenge is to curb the irresponsible use of chemicals and fertilizers: these are sometimes mixed inside wells which makes it easy for farmers to dispense them to their crops, but causes serious contamination of the lens.
For more information about the project, please contact: Aminath Sheron , Project Manager, Ministry of Environment & Energy, Male, Maldives: firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Flickr picture gallery page.
– Visit the website of the Ministry of Environment and Energy of the Maldives
– Visit our page on the IWRM demonstration project in Maldives