Island residents battle against climate change: Case Study

– HA. Dhidhoo, December 2013 – The sand bags piled on HA.Dhidhoo island’s beach to restrict erosion are visible from

Zubaidha Abdul Razzak’s front door. The mother of four said the ocean used to be

250 feet away from the house, but now, during stormy weather, waves lap at her front


“The water in my well is salty. It corrodes the taps, and my children have had hair fall

and skin problems because we shower with groundwater,” she said.

The main sources of water on Dhidhoo – an island of approximately 5000 people and

a land area of 85 hectares – are groundwater, rainwater, and in recent years, bottled

water. The groundwater in the island has become salty and contaminated due to

erosion, overuse, and sewage water being pumped into the ground. In May during the

dry season, the island now runs out of potable water. A population boom,

mismanagement of water resources and unpredictable rainfall usually has led to this

shortage. According to Dhidhoo Island Council, the government provides up to 90

tonnes of desalinated water (produced in neighboring Kulhudhuffushi Island) to plug

the annual shortage in Dhihdhoo.

PHOTO: Ali Nishan

“The ocean used to be 250

feet away from the house,

but now in stormy weather,

waves lap at my front door”

Resident of HA. Dhidhoo,

Zubaidha Abdul Razzak


In 2011, the Government of the United States announced and

signed a memorandum of understanding with the Government of

Maldives for a total of US$ 7.3 million project to provide an

island-wide solid waste management and an island-wide

desalinated water supply system, piped and metered to individual

households in Dhidhoo and LH.Hinnavaru. On 27 September

2011, USAID directly subcontracted the water project to an

American company Chemonics International. For this project the

selection of the project was carried out by the donor directly.

However, with the exception of repeated announcements by the

two most recent US Ambassadors to Maldives, there were no

further news of the solid waste management system.

Furthermore, to date the promised water supply system has not


Community Commitment

Public expectations regarding the water project are high on

Dhidhoo. On July 10, 2012, the US Ambassador Patricia Butenis

visited Dhidhoo and pledged to provide a safe water system and

improve the existing sewerage system on the island.

USAID had chosen Dhidhoo and Hinnavaru Islands as the same

agency had installed a sewerage system in Dhidhoo and assisted

in the installation of a 30 tonne desalination plant in Hinnavaru

in 2010.
According to Ministry of Environment and Energy (MEE),

Chemonics International carried out several studies during 2012

– the first year of the project.

One such study, titled “A financial analysis of waterand sewer

infrastructure alternatives”, completed in May 2012, detailed out

the financial capacity to operate the planned water supply

system. The study concluded that there were insufficient funds

for a piped water network and recommended alternative methods

such as having a truck transport water to households. Chemonics

International proposed to install a central water supply using rainwater storage in community water tanks by means of

community tap bay.

However, MEE rejected the proposal, reminding USAID that the

original project proposal approved by government was to install

a piped and metered water supply to every household in both

Hinnavaru and Dhidhoo. The ministry said these plans had

already been communicated to the island councils as well as the

beneficiary communities and said the project must be

implemented according to the approved scope.

In December 2012, USAID informed the Government only US$

1 million remained for infrastructure development.

After several discussions and negotiations, in May 2013, USAID

agreed to allocate an additional US$ 3 million for infrastructure

development; a figure only sufficient for a piped network in

Hinnavaru, only one of the two islands. The government was left

with the task of explaining to the community of Dhidhoo that the

project will not proceed due to insufficient funds while at the

same time it is unclear why this happened.

Lack of information

Dhidhoo, as the capital of Haa Alif atoll and comprising a large

population, is a priority island for the government. However, the

government had not included provisions for a water system for

Dhidhoo in the state budget due to the USAID project.

Dhidhoo Island council member Abdulla Siraj criticized USAID

saying: “For a long time we were unaware of what was going on.

They come to this island every two months, but we don’t see

what they do. Are they trying to show us a dream?” he said.

Expectations are high on the island, Siraj said adding, “Everyone

knows the money has been allocated. The US Ambassador came

here. There is a project office, but we do not know what is

happening. Of the total amount for the two islands, we do not

know how much was allocated for Dhidhoo”

PHOTO: Transparency Maldives

Zubaidha Abdul Razzak’s home – the ocean used to be 250 feet away but now, during stormy weather waves lap at her front door.

Raising awareness for phantom projects

Donors must not allocate funds for soft components if there is no

money for infrastructure, the MEE has said.

“During this project, a lot of money has been spent on studying

various options with various consultants. Similar studies have

been done in other islands. I do not believe such studies need to

be done every single time,” a Director General at MEE said.

While the studies were ongoing, Chemonics International has

subcontracted local NGO Live and Learn to conduct awareness

projects on the island. A Live and Learn Staff Usman Ashraf said

he has conducted three awareness projects this year on water

management and safe use of drinking water. These activities are

now being questioned as the final project is not being delivered

and furthermore seen as wasteful as the issue of lack of funds for

infrastructure component is raised by the donor. “They have

wasted the allocated money on staff salaries, awareness programs

and useless studies,” Siraj said.

Donors must understand the scope of the projects they commit to,

MEE said. “When we say we want a piped network, they have to

understand what it means. We have emails and communications

that very clearly states that the government wants a piped

network in Dhidhoo and a piped network is expensive,” they


According to MEE, the project had also been impacted due to the

USAID focal point changing over time and different individuals

visiting the Maldives for follow-up visits.

Who should raise the alarm bell?

Had Chemonics International been reporting to the MEE, the

ministry could have intervened to stop use of funds on repetitive

studies. The contractors did not report to directly to MEE on a

regular basis because the project was implemented outside the

normal Government procedures. Projects are audited by the

Auditor General’s Office only by specific request of the donor.

Alternatively such projects would be audited by a private audit

firm, which may not capture the progress of projects against the

intended work-plan nor analyse the benefit to communities and

adherence to government policies. Such aspects are addressed

by Auditor General’s Office and government encourages more

involvement of AGO in donor funded projects as well. Such

projects also need to be reported on a regular basis to the central

monitoring agency of the government, Office of Programmes

and Projects who conducts onsite monitoring of projects they

oversee. No government agency also visited the island to assess

progress for this project. In addition, keeping the local councils

more informed is also a crucial monitoring strategy. For this

project, Dhidhoo council noted that they never received a

workplan or a copy of the contract made with Chemonics and

thus they were unable to monitor or report any delays.

Dhidhoo’s water project demonstrates the importance of donors

collaborating with the government in project implementation,

monitoring and oversight. Dhidhoo further shows project

designs need to align with community needs, and must be

implemented with the participation of government and local


Sustainable Solution

Meanwhile, Zubaidha continues to hope for a water system. She

is waiting for a gutter system to be installed in her house so she

can collect rainwater for drinking and cooking.

“But a tank is not a sustainable solution. We want safe water in

our plumbing system too,” she said. “I’m hoping we get potable

water as soon as possible. We are constantly told we will get it

soon, people are constantly coming to survey, but we have not

seen a solution yet.”

Aishath Reetho, Senior Planner at Ministry of Housing and

Infrastructure said the government is now negotiating with a

private party to develop the water and sewerage system in

Dhidhoo under a public-private-partnership model. The private

party is to be offered concessions to build luxury villas in an

uninhabited island in Baa Atoll in return for 400 housing units

and a water and sewerage system in Dhidhoo. If the project is

approved, it will take another two years to complete the water

system. While the community waits for this untested model to

be successful, will they ever know why funds dried up for the

promised project?

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