Maldives / South Asia: Water Crisis Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) DREF Operation MDRMV0002 Update n° 1

Situation Report
Originally published


Summary of major revisions made to emergency plan of action:

Maldives water crisis was triggered by a sudden fire causing damage to the water generator unit. With the Maldivian authorities declaring drinking water shortage on 4 December, the Maldivian Red Crescent (MRC) recognized its auxiliary role to provide immediate response and was requested to do so by the authorities. Following which, MRC requested IFRC for DREF funding to provide drinking water to the affected population, while keeping in mind that revision will be made upon further information. The initial plan aimed at procuring and dispatching 90,000 bottles of drinking water to Maldives from Sri Lanka. At the time, it was acknowledged that this intervention is neither costeffective nor environmental-friendly; however the response was vital as part of MRC contribution to the overall efforts to provide the inhabitants of Male with emergency water supplies. In the days that followed, it became clearer that those emergency supplies will be ensured with support from the governments of India, China, Sri Lanka and the United States. MRC, in close coordination with the national authorities, further identified additional targets for its involvement in this emergency response. The original DREF plan was revised as follows:

  • Provision of bottled water reduced from 90,000 to 30,000 L

  • Added provision of 10 water tanks

  • Added provision of 32,000 10L jerry cans All revisions have been made in close consultation between MRC, IFRC South Asia Regional Delegation (SARD), Sri Lanka delegation and IFRC APZO. The overall DREF budget allocation has not been affected by these changes.
    The initial timeframe of this DREF operation was estimated at 2 weeks; however, due to the revised plan which includes the provision of jerry cans, the operation will be extended for 2 months to early February 2015 to complete the delivery and distribution of these items.

A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

On 4 December, fire broke out inside the Maldives Water and Sewerage company (MWSC) Generator Unit in the capital Male, causing a major break-down in the functioning of the main water desalination plant and disrupting supply of drinking water to the inhabitants of the main island, which constitute approximately 50 per cent of the total population of the Maldives. The authorities announced that it would take at least a week before the plant is functional again, due to the lack of spare parts and technical expertise in-country.

The population of Malé is 153,000 as per the preliminary results of a census1 done this year. In addition, Maldivian Red Crescent (MRC) estimates there are up to 50,000 expatriate workers and undocumented migrants in the city (not covered under the census). The vast majority of households in the capital rely on MWSC for their daily water needs.

The government declared a state of disaster, and a governmental task force, headed by the Minister of Defense, was set up to coordinate the distribution of safe drinking water. On 8 December, the government declared a week-long national holiday as part of efforts to mitigate the effects of the crisis and prevent much feared civil disturbance. The government officially requested other governments, organizations and institutional partners, including MRC, to urgently provide water as a short-term solution, as well as desalination equipment and other support to alleviate the situation.

In the days that followed, governments of India, Sri Lanka, China and the United States responded with air-lifts of drinking water, as well as mobilization of navy ships with desalination equipment. In addition, the authorities ensured minimal daily supply of pumped water (one-hour supply every six-hours); however only a limited number of residents could access this provision, due to low pressure of water. Despite initial anxiety among the residents, and the government’s fears of civil unrest, there have not been any reports of violence, apart from minor scuffles in distribution queues.