Third Committee

Agenda Item 73(b): Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

Intervention by the Republic of Maldives to the Report by the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Leo Heller

United Nations, New York, 28 October 2015


Thank you Distinguished Chairperson,

The Maldives would like to thank the Special Rapporteur for his report and appreciate his work in this area.

Providing basic public services on safe drinking water and sanitation, is one of the key priorities of the Maldives. Provision of these services are explicitly stated in our Constitution and hold a high degree of importance as a basic human right, and key to development. Due to geographical nature of the Maldives, the shallow natural water table, and the thin fresh water lens is easily contaminated and depleted due to excessive demand. It is also vulnerable to increased salinity due to over extraction and salt water intrusion due to sea level raise.

Provision of these basic rights to the widely dispersed population of the Maldives, while also meeting the equally challenging needs of the densely populated Capital island of Male', have not been easy but achievable. In Male', due to lack of space available for rainwater storage, the entire population is catered with desalinated salt water. Safe water is assured in many of the other islands, through desalination and harvested rainwater.

But sustainability of services has been rather difficult owing to the vulnerability of the country. This vulnerability was quite evident during the 2004 tsunami when fresh water lenses of affected islands were heavily contaminated and approximately 50% of all rainwater tanks were destroyed; and more recently during the Male' Water crisis in December 2014, when more than 100,000 residents in Male' lost access to clean water supplies for more than a week, after a tragic fire incident in the desalination water plant.

I also wish to echo the sentiments expressed by the delegation of Fiji on the need to look into the effects of climate change on the right to safe water.

My question to the Special Rapporteur is, how can sustainability factor be strengthened given such unique challenges with individual countries and natural disasters.