By: Assela Pathirana - Chief Technical Advisor, UNDP Maldives
There it was. I was offered an opportunity to work with UNDP and the Ministry of Environment in a Green Climate Fund-supported project to provide safe water for the people of the Maldives, who are struggling with climate change-induced water shortages. More than a 100,000 people in 29 islands will be reached. More importantly, it will create a legacy of a positive and transformative change in the water sector in the Maldives.
I had never been to the Maldives! Eighty per cent of what someone hears about the country is about its fancy resorts and nice beaches. The world often forgets that the country has communities who face actual – and very serious climate change-related problems.
Before I started my current assignment in the Maldives, I had an opportunity to visit the country and see the reality that we are dealing with: The hundreds of communities that are distributed in tiny individual islands, each to be supplied with water and other essential lifelines; the increasingly longer dry-seasons in which emergency water has to be transferred to islands at an unbelievably high cost; and the rapidly diminishing underground freshwater lens that makes communities extremely vulnerable. The Maldives has unique and serious water challenges to deal with.
Yes, global media has focused on the vulnerability of Maldives due to sea-level rise – is an extremely serious problem. But what many don’t realize is that for the Maldives, the climate change vulnerability is no longer an abstract future risk – it is very much here!