Desalination dependence highlighted by Maldives water crisis

Bottled water supplies continue to be sent to the Maldives to help calm public discontent after a crippling fire to the capital city’s desalination plant has left over 100,000 without drinking water...

Male Maldives Web

Bottled water supplies continue to be sent to the Maldives to help calm public discontent after a crippling fire to the capital city’s desalination plant has left over 100,000 without drinking water.

Following a reported fire on Thursday at the Mal Water and Sewerage Company’s (MWSC) desalination plant, the city of Malé – with a population of 130,000 – has been struggling to meet water demands.

President Abdulla Yameen told the media: “We did not have any fall back plan for any disaster of this magnitude. However, we have done extremely hard work to try and bring the situation back to normal.”

Maldives officials estimate that it could take up to five days to repair the fire damage to the desalination plant and restore normal supply.

The Maldives are composed of 1,190 low-lying islands, about 600km southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean.

Heavy abstraction of groundwater has depleted sources, especially in Malé, according to the UN. Where there is insufficient space available for rainwater collection and storage, desalination has become the only alternative means of providing safe water supply.

India, Sri Lanka, China and the US are sending supplies to help the nation. China has since donated $500,000 and the government is arranging for commercial flights to Malé to carry bottles of drinking water.

The nation’s first desalination plant was installed in 1988 – using reverse osmosistechnologywith a capacity of 200 m3/day.

Another island in the Maldives, Gulhi, took delivery of a desalination unit from German company Memsys which in the summer claimed to be “energy positive” (see WWi story).

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