Dhidhoo, the capital of Haa Alif atoll is being flooded by ‘Udha’ swell waves coming in from the eroded southern side of the island, the island council has said today.
Deputy President of the council Jauhari Ali today said the waves are coming from three eroding areas, one of which is populated densely – with the nearest houses just seven feet from reach of these swells.
“It is an eroding area, the waves have coming in constantly for the past three days, particularly early morning. But since all houses in the area have fence walls the houses are not flooded – but all around the houses the streets are flooded,” he said.
‘Udha’ is a common phenomenon in the Maldives, particularly during the south-west monsoon, and is often associated with changes in ‘Nakaiy’ – the fortnightly intervals of the Maldives’ unique weather calendar.
A local environmentalist familiar with the Nakaiy system said Udha waves are connected to the moon, gravity, and changes in winds and said it is a completely normal natural phenomenon but that it could harm islands which are already eroding.
Jauhari said the groundwater in the area has been affected so badly that many people are not able use the wells which they commonly use for all purposes other than drinking – for which rain water is used.
“People showed us how this is damaging their property. Washing machines and kitchen utensils are damaged as the sea water has affected the [ground] wells.” He said.
Dhidhoo, like many other Maldivian islands, also faces shortage of rain water supply but has not had to request emergency water supplies from the Disaster Management Center this year.
“Some of the houses did run out of water but we managed using [public] water tanks at the Mosque and School. And with this rainy season, we don’t think drinking water will be an issue this year,” explained Jauhari.
A report from the “Detailed Island Risk Assessment in Maldives” intiative undertaken by the Maldives government in 2010 described Udha as a “gravity wave phenomenon”, suggesting that it is “highly probable” that these waves originate as swell waves from the Southern Indian Ocean which are further fueled by the onset of southwest monsoon during May.
The report also stated that the intensity and impacts of Udha waves are usually very low, with flooding occurring within 10 meters of coastline at less than 0.3 m height above the ground, and is not expected to be a major hazard in the short-term.
“This issue needs to be further explored based on long term wave and climatological data of the Indian Ocean before any specific conclusions can be made,” the report stated.
“However, if the relationship does exists, this phenomena could prove to be a major hazard in the face of climate change since the intensity of southern Indian Ocean winter storms is expected to increase,” it continued.
The impact Udha of waves on the erosion of the islands is one of the biggest of worries on Dhidhoo council.
Deputy President Jauhari said the island has been eroding at a “dangerous level”, with approximately 300-400 feet already taken away from an initial area of approximately 85 hectares, which is home to an estimated 4500 people.
“It is happening all across the southern part of the island except for the newly [in 2010] reclaimed area. And particularly the mid-area and two sides of the south-western beach are affected,” he added, noting that one of the first issues discussed by the newly elected council was resolving the issue of soil erosion.
“As a temporary solution we used put jumbo bags to prevent the area from erosion with help from the public. But now with the south-west monsoon the waves are going over these bags in to the island,” he said
The island and atoll council members visited the area and have discussed finding an immediate solution, Jauhari said.
“Right now the areas is not accessible due to the waves, people cant go in there and put a barrier. And at the moment we do not have any heavy load vehicles here, and no bags either. But we are planning to put bags at the beach now.”
He said the government have also been informed and in response a Maldives Transport and Contracting Company team working in nearby Vashafaru Island was sent to inspect the area.