COLOMBO — The Chinese government has donated $500,000 to the Maldives government to speed up repairs in a desalination plant and restore water to the capital, an official said on Dec 7.
The donation was done after the Maldives government announced an estimated $20 million would be needed to repair the plant that was damaged in a fire on Dec 4 resulting in the capital’s population of 130,000 being without water for four days.
“The Chinese government has already come forward with a $500,000 donation. Discussions are ongoing with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and other Arab governments. We hope to get monetary aid from them,” Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim told reporters.
The appeals are being made through the Foreign Ministry. Private donors have also chipped in with an anonymous $1 million also coming in from a Saudi businessman.
Water services to the capital Male were shut off on Dec 4 after a crippling fire damaged crucial components of the island’s sole desalination facility the Male Water and Sewerages Company (MWSC) leaving thousands of people without water for bathing, cleaning, and cooking.
Authorities have acknowledged that damage to the capital’s desalination plant is extensive, and could take between three days and a week to fully repair.
He insisted repairs carried out at the MWSC has shown progress with sporadic water production being distributed to some parts of the capital but admitted the damage was more extensive than initially expected.
Large numbers of homes, hotels, shops and restaurants are either still without water or have access only at ground level resulting in long lines forming at water distribution centers.
Maldives President Abdulla Yameen on Dec 6 cut short a personal trip to Malaysia where his son is reported to be receiving medical treatment to deal with the crisis.
Fresh supplies of water continue to arrive from abroad most notably from China and India with distribution being carried out by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) with the assistance of local nongovernmental organizations alongside numerous private businesses.
The Chinese government has pledged to assist the water starved Maldives capital by working with the government to provide substantial amounts of drinking water at the earliest possible time, a statement from the embassy said on Dec 6.
The Chinese government has arranged for all commercial flights out of China to Male to be loaded with drinking water. The first batch arrived on Dec 6 morning carrying 15 tons of bottled water.
“Two Chinese air force crafts have also taken off from China carrying 40 tons of bottled water and arrived on Saturday,” it added.
In addition, a Chinese navy ship with water purification facilities is already making way to capital Male and will provide drinking water to residents once its docked, the embassy assured.
The Maldives government has set up water distribution centers at schools and other public spaces, with each person allowed two 1. 5 liter bottles.