Current Issues

The United States has always had friendly relations with Republic of Maldives, and an interest in seeing the country reach its potential.  Since 2001, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has assisted Maldives to utilize the potential of wind to meet their energy needs.

Following the tsunami of 2004, USAID provided $1.9 million in new programming that targets two of the largest islands to install water desalination plants, help build local capacity, and improve health care services.  The program also provides institutional strengthening and capacity building to the Ministry of Environment, Energy & Water.

Successful execution of these projects may lead to further USAID development initiatives from the American people.

Wind provides a clean and sustainable source of energy for island nations like Maldives. Photo: USAID/Karin Fernando

Power in Maldives

Like many countries, Maldives faces the challenge of a secure energy supply limited by sparse indigenous energy resources and high dependence on imported oil.  With the construction of energy-intensive, high-rise buildings and growing ownership of household and commercial electrical appliances, the demand for commercial energy has been increasing steadily in recent years.

The state electric company provides 24-hour electricity to the capital Male’, while all other inhabited islands have access to electricity through small diesel generating sets managed by private operators. For the near-80 islands developed for tourism, diesel remains the main source of power generation. Few renewable energy sources have yet to be introduced to help the country meet a part of their energy needs.

Wind Power

The USAID South Asia Regional Initiative on Energy (SARI/E) helped Maldives identify and exploit the potential of wind to meet their energy needs. SARI/E assisted in creating wind and solar resource data and maps for Maldives to help identify and develop optimal wind, solar, and hybrid renewable energy systems, and to estimate the resources available at any site where renewable applications are contemplated. New renewable energy optimization computer models will also help Maldives identify and exploit potential sources of wind power.

Capacity Building

Capacity building for Maldives’ energy sector has included regional workshops, seminars, conferences, and peer exchange programs on demand side management, billing and collection, distribution system efficiency improvement, energy information administration and energy efficiency standards and labeling, and regular training programs.  In these training programs, participants are sharing experiences and best practices in regional and American distribution utilities on efficient operation, reduction of distribution losses, modern management practices, and integration of new energy sources into the power grid.

Rural Energy Development

Training on rural energy development emphasized on the development of renewable energy and included an overview of renewable energy resources, technologies and applications for rural electrification, introduction to renewable based hybrid power system technology; project cost calculations, and requirements for technology options analysis. Thirty mid-level technical personnel participated in these two programs.

For more information on SARI/Energy, visit

The tsunami of December 2004 damaged or destroyed harbors, sewage systems, power systems, wells, and fresh water storage facilities throughout Maldives.

In response, the U.S. Congress allocated $12 million for relief and reconstruction assistance for Maldives.  U.S. relief activities worth $1.3 million were concluded within the six months following the tsunami.

For longer term reconstruction, the United States provided $1.9 million to upgrade damaged water supply systems on two islands.

The United States also granted $8.6 million for construction of a harbor and breakwater, upgrading of sewage systems, repair of power systems, and assistance to the Ministry of Finance to improve its public accounting systems.

The following are details of the United States’ long term reconstruction assistance:

Water Supplies

The Republic of Maldives depends on rainwater harvesting and groundwater during the dry season as the sources of safe drinking water to sustain its population. Preservation of its water resources and management of sanitation services is a main concern for the country and any disruption of groundwater capabilities leaves the population vulnerable.

The tsunami inundated fresh water storage facilities and wells with seawater thereby contaminating groundwater with sewage.  Overdrawing of groundwater has also caused sea water intrusion.  Some islands dependent on rainwater and groundwater before the tsunami now look to desalination for their water needs.  Immediately following the tsunami, some donors provided shelter, livelihoods and infrastructure assistance, but drinking water needs remained underserved.

USAID Mission Director Rebecca Cohn reviews plans for an improved water system on Naifaru. (USAID Photo)

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) assistance of $1.9 million targeted two large islands — Naifaru (population 4,500) and Hinnavaru (population 4,350).

The program installed water desalination plants with 30,000 liters per day capacity at both islands, formed water management committees, built local capacity, and provided media equipment to facilitate advisory services on water hygiene and environmental health at the Atoll Hospital.  The program also improved capacity for waste water and sewage sector planning and assisted with project management and implementation with the Ministry.  A subcontract for the construction of water systems was executed in July 2007.

The project was managed by the American firm, CH2M Hill, with a contractor field office in Maldives.   The project also provided training to the Ministry of Environment, Energy & Water.

Harbors, Sewage, Power, and Public Accounting Systems

An $8.6 million grant to Maldives, to be administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of External Resources, will fund construction of a harbor and breakwater, upgrading of sewage systems, repair of power systems, and assistance to the Ministry of Finance to strengthen its public accounting systems.

One harbor project will be for a newly inhabited island, R. Dhuvafaruu, where the International Federation of the Red Cross is assisting with relocation of a community whose island was rendered uninhabitable by the tsunami.

The destruction of sewerage systems on inhabited islands led to additional groundwater contamination and is perhaps the major post-tsunami infrastructure challenge faced by the Maldives.  New sewage systems on four islands will handle higher capacity and will evacuate waste farther from the shoreline, into deeper water where it will be more rapidly dissipated.

Electricity systems on six islands will be upgraded with larger capacity generators and new electrical wiring to replace cables and switches damaged by the salt water.

The Ministry of Finance’s capacity building involves training civil servants in public sector accounting skills to enable line ministries to conduct more accurate budgeting in conjunction with the Ministry.  This project complements a World Bank/EU accounting systems upgrade project.

Ambassador of the United States of America to Maldives and Sri Lanka, Robert Blake, joined with Lhaviyani Atoll Chief Ahmed Moosa and local officials to preside over the groundbreaking of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Lhaviyani Atoll Community Water Supply Project on Hinnavaru and Naifaru islands on Wednesday August 29, 2007.

Under the project developed after the 2004 tsunami, USAID is installing water desalination plants with 30,000 liters per day capacity on both Naifaru and Hinnavaru, and will assist in the formation of water management committees.

The $1.9 million initiative also includes institutional strengthening and capacity building in the Ministry of Environment, Energy & Water.  It is managed by the American firm, CH2M Hill.  Through this project, the American people are contributing to the development of a secure water supply system on two of the largest islands in Maldives.