Disaster Profile and Vulnerability Context of Maldives
Maldives is a low lying island nation comprising of over thousand tiny islands, out of which 187 are administrative islands, 109 are resort islands and 128 are Industrial islands. All islands are subjected to physical vulnerability due to the country’s extremely low elevation and the flat topography. The wide dispersal of its population of 3 hundred thousand, across the islands is also a significant contributing factor. The frequency of natural disaster of large scale is relatively low in Maldives. However, the 2004 Indian ocean Tsunami brought devastating impact to the life of its people, economy and development progress. The event also brought disaster preparedness to the forefront of government attention due to its huge impact on its population throughout the nation. Generally, the Maldives, regularly get affected by high frequent, low impact seasonal events such as monsoonal flooding, coastal erosion, salt water intrusion and intense sea surges related flooding due to sea level rise.
Maldives is exposed in the open sea to Tsunamis that may develop in the active Sumatra fault. Therefore the eastern sectors of the northern and central islands are highly exposed to tsunamis generated in the Indonesia Region. The northern islands have the greatest exposure to surge hazards and cyclones.Maldives experience thunderstorms, flash floods and water shortage during the dry North east Monsoon.
Over the next ten years, there is an estimated 10 percent probability of a storm hitting the northern atolls with wind speed from 118 to 177km/h (category 1 and 2 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale). Due to low elevation, Maldives is most vulnerable to hydro-meteorological hazards. The northern island are sometimes affected by weak cyclones that form in the southern part of Bay of Bengal. However, cyclones rarely cross directly over the Maldives. Strong winds, floods due to high rainfall and storm tides sometime cause damage to property and livelihoods. Lack of drainage system in almost all islands exacerbate damage.
The Maldives is highly exposed to weather and oceanic hazards. Most islands lack coastal protection measures or windbreaks to withstand strong wind or tidal waves. The island communities are therefore extremely vulnerable to damages related to gusty wind and flooding related to tidal waves. Vulnerability is intensified by the fact that many islands have settlements and critical infrastructure such as schools, island council, power plant health center etc. near the shoreline. Many of these facilities are on the coast.
Climate change is a significant and an apparent issue for the Maldives. The maximum sea level rise of 59 centimeters by 2100 predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change due to global warming is expected to make intense flooding incident more frequent and coastal erosion more prevalent. According to past 10 years record, changes in weather patterns cause yearly shortages of drinking water in almost 40 percent of inhabited islands.
Due to the spread of the islands in a vast ocean, its logistically difficult to provide emergency assistance to islands affected by a disaster in a timely manner. Local response forces, with limited resources, lack in their capacity to respond to disasters. Therefore are only partly functional. National Response agencies and partner organizations with in their established coverage thorough out the nation are working on establishing effective local response to disasters.