According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) vulnerability is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes (IPCC 2001:388). Adaptation refers to adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities (IPCC 2001:365). For the Maldives, adaptation is a multi-dimensional goal that aims to increase resilience of the vulnerable systems against climate hazards and risks to achieve sustainable development outcomes. Maldives is an archipelago of 25 lowlying coral atolls located in a north to south direction on the Laccadives-Chagos submarine ridge in the Indian Ocean. This chain is 860km long and the width varies between 80 to 120km. There are 1190 small tropical islands out of which 358 islands are being currently utilized mainly for human settlements, infrastructure and economic activities. The largest island is Gan in Laamu Atoll which is barely 6km. Maldives has a tropical monsoon climate. The south-west monsoon is from May to November and the north-east monsoon is from January to March. Daily temperature varies between 31 C and 23 C. The mean daily maximum temperature is 30.4 C and the mean daily minimum temperature is 25.7 C. Humidity ranges from 73 to 85% (MEC, 2004; Meteorology, 2006).

A. Adaptation Needs and Priorities
Maldives is an archipelago of 25 low-lying coral atolls located in the Indian Ocean southwest of the Indian subcontinent. The country’s climate is characterized as “tropical monsoon,” with monsoons occurring from May to November and from January to March (MEEW, 2007). Climate change is an existential threat to the small coral islands that make up the Maldives. Over 80 per cent of the land area of Maldives is less than one meter above mean sea level; as such, a sea level rise of even a meter would cause the loss of the entire land area of Maldives (MHAHE, 2001). In the near term, the islands of the Maldives are very vulnerable to inundation and gradual sea level rise will aggravate the existing problem of beach erosion; in the recent past, 62 per cent of all inhabited islands and 45 per cent of tourist resorts reported severe beach erosion (Shaig, 2006). Rising sea levels also threaten the scarce fresh water resources of Maldives. Salt water intrusion is gradually encroaching in to the islands’ small pockets or ‘lenses’ of fresh water underground.  The coral reefs surrounding the Maldives are at risk due to gradual warming of sea water (in addition to pollution from man-made sources). Given that these reefs support both the country’s tourism and fisheries  industries upon which the people depend almost exclusively, climate change is a profound threat to its very economic base.  
Maldives’ National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) identifies the following key areas of climate change related vulnerabilities: land, beach and human settlements; critical infrastructure; tourism; fisheries; human health; water resources; agriculture and food security; and coral reef biodiversity (MEEF, 2007). 
B. National Level Policies and Strategic Documents
Maldives completed its Initial National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2001. In addition to identifying key vulnerabilities, this report also proposed 12 high-priority adaptation and mitigation projects, clearly recognized the finance gap and indicated that adaptation action would have to be carried out using external resources.  
As a follow up, Maldives initiated its NAPA process in 2004. Progress towards it completion was immediately interrupted in December 2004 by the Indian Ocean tsunami. This single event changed Maldives’ status from a developing country back to a least developed country (LDC) and exposed how vulnerable this small  country is to natural calamities. Maldives eventually completed the NAPA in 2007.
Recommendations made in Maldives’ NAPA are based on a systematic review of the risk-vulnerability context. Within it, adaptation is seen as “a multi-dimensional goal that aims to increase resilience of the vulnerable systems against climate hazards and risks to achieve sustainable development outcomes” (MEEW, 2007). After consultations with the stakeholder groups and reviewing expert assessments, Maldives came up with 12 priority adaptation projects, as summarized in Table 3. The NAPA envisioned that implementation of the adaptation activities would be overseen by the National Commission for Protection of the Environment. A special interagency task force would ensure the respective agencies of the government mobilize international financial assistance and allocate public financing to the priority project profiles in the NAPA.
In 2011, Maldives announced it had signed the world’s first Strategic National Action Plan that integrates disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. The policy was formulated using broad consultations with key sectors including housing, construction, environment and health, and focuses on governance and decentralization as key to the success of risk reduction and adaptation. The policy is viewed as a landmark initiative within the disaster risk reduction and adaptation communities.
It may be mentioned that Maldives is a very active and visible player in the international climate conferences and negotiation meetings. And, even though its own greenhouse gas emissions are insignificant, Maldives has declared a national ambition to become a carbon neutral country by 2020.
C. Current Adaptation Action
Compared to other South Asia countries, the number of discrete adaptation projects underway in Maldives appears to be low, although each addresses Maldives’ adaptation priorities as identified though its national policies. One project, “Integration of Climate Change risks into the Maldives Safer Island 
Development Program,” explicitly addressing  a priority need identified in  Maldives’ NAPA.  In addition, a Climate Trust Fund was established in December 2009 by the European Union and the World Bank for the Maldives. It aims to build a climate resilient economy through various mitigation and adaptation activities.  The majority of projects are focused on policy formulation and integration, although the areas risk reduction, coastal zones, water, forestry and meteorology are also being addressed. Funders of these projects include the Australia, European Commission, French Global Environment Fund, Germany, the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), Norway, Sweden, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Bank.  
D. Proposed Adaptation Action
Maldives identifies 12  priority adaptation actions in its NAPA, one of which is currently receiving funding through the LDCF: “Integration of future climate change scenarios into the Safer Island Strategy.” In addition, the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) is currently considering funding for an additional project that may address NAPA priorities. The majority of these proposed adaptation actions focus on risk reduction in coastal zones, as well as the building of infrastructure to reduce the vulnerability of coastal populations. Proposed project activities also address the areas of health, tourism, water, agriculture, nature and fisheries.


Islam, Faisal; Hove, Hilary; Parry, Jo-Ellen. (2011) “Review of Current and Planned Adaptation Action: South Asia.” Adaptation Patnership/International Institute for Sustainable Development, pp.108-118.

Additional References


Ministry of Environment, Energy and Water [MEEW] (2007). National Adaptation Programme of Action: The Republic of Maldives. Retrieved 
Ministry of Home Affairs, Housing and Environment [MHAHE] (2001). First National Communication of the Republic of Maldives. Retrieved 


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Funding Proposal - GCF Maldives

Green Climate Fund Funding Proposal - Maldives ('Supporting vulnerable communities in Maldives to manage climate change-induced water shortages')

Feasibility Study

This document presents the feasibility study of the "Supporting vulnerable communities in Maldives to manage climate change-induced water shortages" project that was prepared by the Government of Maldives. It includes a calculation of demand for fresh water across the islands and an estimate of the rainwater harvesting and the level of production and distribution of desalinated water required to meet demand. 

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Supporting Vulnerable Communities in Maldives to Manage Climate Change-Induced Water Shortages

Implemented by the Maldivian Ministry of Environment and Energy, the project Supporting vulnerable communities in Maldives to manage climate change-induced water shortages targets 49 islands across of 13 atolls of the country that continue to experience water shortages due to low rainfall and extended dry periods, brought on by a changing climate. The project aims to provide safe and reliable freshwater to 105,000 people, roughly 30 percent of the island nation's residents. 

Under the project, a 90-day reserve of clean water will be secured, reducing the exposure to health risks from untreated water. Water desalination facilities on four islands across the most vulnerable regions in the North will also be established. These islands will then serve as water production and distribution hubs for all seven Northern atolls during the dry season, lifting their dependency on the capital Male’ for emergency drinking water. The remaining 45 islands in both the north and south of Maldives will benefit from improved rainwater collection infrastructure, combined with groundwater protection and improvements.

Level of Intervention: 
Thematic Area: 
POINT (73.509521431144 4.1834422899354)
Primary Beneficiaries: 
295,000 (105,000 people in the outer islands of Maldives)
Funding Source: 

Waters of Paradise - Adapting to Climate Change in the Maldives

The Maldives is one of the wonders of the world. Located in the Indian Ocean and made of 1192 coral islands, it is also the world’s lowest lying country. The highest natural point is just 2.4 meters above sea level. Today, one of the main problems for Maldivians is water. And it is likely to get worse with Climate Change.

Financing Amount: 
US$23.6 million (GCF funding according to GCF website)
Co-Financing Total: 
US$4.6 million (Ministry of Environment and Energy US$4.5 million, UNDP US$100,000)
Project Details: 

The Maldives consists of 1,190 small, low-lying coral islands spread across 90,000 square kilometers. Its estimated population of 399,000 is scattered over 194 main islands. With high-end tourism as the main driver of economic growth, the country has made significant development progress since its independence in 1965.

However, national aggregate indicators of progress conceal underlying inequalities. A significant disparity between people living in the capital, Malé, and those living in other atolls is reflected in conspicuous differences in their human development indices. The outer island communities are especially vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather events, rainfall distribution anomalies, and sea level rise.

Observed experiences during the last decade bear out the risks of climate change. In 2004, an estimated 30 percent of the outer islands’ population experienced water shortages, and since 2005 an average of 81 islands had requested emergency shipments of water to be delivered from Malé during the annual dry season. The calls for emergency shipments have intensified as the rainfalls become more erratic and dryer seasons dryer, and as a result, islands’ stored rainwater reserves become depleted. This has resulted on an average of 3,500 liters shipped out from Malé annually during the last ten years. During 2005-2012, the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) spent US$2.4 million (annual average of US$300,000) to provide desalinated water to over 90 islands.

Difference in geography (land availability), hydro-climatic characteristics (rainfall amounts and distribution patterns) and socio-economic conditions (population size, density, growth trends, and socio-economic status) suggest the need for decentralised and fully customised approaches to water production and distribution to achieve island and atoll level self-sufficiency.

The Maldivian government faces severe constraints in responding to the country’s present and future water security challenges.  Firstly, the precarious fiscal status limits the response options to largely reactive emergency measures. Longer-term solutions, without additional financial support, are out of reach. Secondly, a dispersed and small population prevents the possibility of economies of scale in providing water and sanitation services, as well as capital infrastructure.

In response to climate change risks and challenges, the proposed project will provide sufficient water to supply the potable water needs of island residents year round for a 35 year design period (to 2050). Project finance will be used to establish an integrated water resources management system that integrates the three main sources of water (rainwater, groundwater, and desalinated water) into a least cost delivery system. The project will: (i) increase rainfall collection capacity in target 49 islands at least threefold; (ii) improve groundwater management, including monitoring, effective replenishment and controlled extraction; and (iii) increase water production capacity through solar-based desalinization to secure sufficient back up resources for timely distribution to island households during extended dry periods. This system will be able to maintain service levels against a context of rainfall variability and sea level rise.

Ultimately, the project will achieve an uninterrupted water supply on islands that currently experience chronic 90-day water shortages during the dry season. As a result of the project, 49 priority islands will have increased rainwater collection capacities. Out of these, 4 of the larger islands will also install desalination-based water production systems. These systems will secure sufficient water production capacity, enabling decentralised and timely water distribution across all northern outer atolls during the extended dry periods, when shortages may occur.

Finally, early water alerts, based on forecasted meteorological information will feed into the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for system management. In addition to actual investments in water production and distribution the project will support more advanced management capabilities of the utilities for greater efficiency that anticipated climate change driven challenges and complexities demand.

Expected Key Results and Outputs: 

Output 1: Scaling up an integrated water supply systems to provide safe water to 32,000 people

  • 11,5023 rainwater harvesting systems for 26,000 residents in 45 islands installed;
  • Standard operating Procedures (SOPs) prepared and used by utilities, local councils and households;
  • 4 RO desalination water plants in 4 islands installed and made operational, using a grid-tied and / or off grid solar PV technology to provide backup capacity in times of water stress;
  • Groundwater recharge system installed for excess rainwater from the RWH collection system on 49 islands, including grey water recycling on selected islands;
  • Tariff evaluation criteria and tariff setting guidelines designed and introduced;
  • Training programmes in integrated water resource management, planning and budgeting, water economic modeling, expenditure management and performance monitoring developed and delivered for relevant atoll and island councils and the ministries (MEE, MoH); and
  • Certification courses for the utilities and sector specialists in the areas of water engineering, capital construction, operation, maintenance, financial management and planning introduced at the Maldivian Polytechnic training institute (MP).

Output 2: Dry Season water production and distribution

  • 4 sub-national water production and distribution locations to serve all Northern atolls established;
  • Institutional coordination and accountability mechanisms between the utilities, the NDMC, MEE and LGA/ councils to facilitate cost-effective and timely water supply during dry season;
  • Regulatory framework for competitive and wholesale water distribution services established;
  • Early warning system established on the basis of forecasted meteorological information for water emergency alerts and for effective operation of integrated water system.

Output 3: Aquifers recharged and protected

  • Baseline assessment (hazards inventory and catchment characterization) completed;
  • Groundwater monitoring protocols with associated equipment and training delivered;
  • Regulatory framework established for coastal land use, including zoning to protect coastal catchment areas and enable natural recharge of groundwater lenses.
Monitoring & Evaluation: 

Project-level monitoring and evaluation will be undertaken in compliance with the UNDP POPP and the UNDP Evaluation Policy. The Project Manager that will be in charge of running the project on behalf of Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) will be responsible for day-to-day project monitoring. S/he will develop annual work plans to ensure the efficient implementation of the project.

The UNDP Country Office will conduct, within other monitoring activities, annual supervision missions. The UNDP Country Office will be responsible for complying with UNDP project-level M&E requirements. Additional M&E, implementation quality assurance, and troubleshooting support will be provided by the UNDP Regional Technical Advisor as needed.

A Project Implementation Report (PIR) will be prepared for each year of project implementation. The Project Manager, the UNDP Country Office, and the UNDP Regional Technical Advisor will provide objective input to the annual PIR. The Project Manager will ensure that the indicators included in the project results framework are monitored annually well in advance of the PIR submission deadline and will objectively report progress in the Development Objective tab of the PIR. The annual PIR will be shared with the Project Board and other stakeholders.

An independent mid-term review (MTR) process will be undertaken and the findings and responses outlined in the management response will be incorporated as recommendations for enhanced implementation during the final half of the project’s duration.

An independent terminal evaluation (TE) will take place no later than three months prior to operational closure of the project. UNDP Country Office will include the planned project terminal evaluation in the UNDP Country Office evaluation plan, and will upload the final terminal evaluation report in English and the management response to the public UNDP Evaluation Resource Centre (ERC) ( The MTR and TE will be carried out by an independent evaluator. The evaluation report prepared by the independent evaluator is then quality assessed and rated by the UNDP Independent Evaluation Office.


Ms. Keti Chachibaia
Regional Technical Adviser
Climate-Related Hazards Addressed: 
Project Status: 
Programme Meetings and Workshops: 

News and Updates: 
Funding Proposal approved by Green Climate Fund Board: 5 November 2015
Local Project Appraisal Committee meeting (LPAC): 12 April 2017
Funded Activity Agreement (FAA) effectiveness reached: 23 May 2017
Project Document signature between UNDP and Government: 29 May 2017
First disbursement of funds: July 2017
Inception workshop with key stakeholders: 8-10 August 2017
'Transformative water project in the Maldives takes off with support from UNDP and the Green Climate Fund' - 11 August, 2017. The project 'Supporting Vulnerable Communities in Maldives to Manage Climate Change-Induced Water Shortages' has moves one step closer to implementation with a meeting of key stakeholders and a special function attended by the Minister of Environment and Energy, Minister of State for Environment and Energy, and UNDP Resident Representative.
'Head of UNDP Achim Steiner welcomes flow of GCF funds to the Maldives' - June 30, 2017. UNDP Programme Administrator says the Maldives will benefit from the current transfer of GCF funds to an adaptation project run by the UNDP. “We are delighted that the Green Climate Fund’s first disbursement to UNDP will help realise this exciting project, which will see almost a third of the population of the Maldives becoming freshwater self-sufficient over the next five years.”
'UNDP signs water project supported by the green climate fund with Maldives'  - May 15, 2017. The Government of Maldives and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has formulated a project to support vulnerable Maldivian communities to manage climate change-induced water shortages. Speaking at the function held to sign the project, Minister Thoriq Ibrahim said that this achievement is remarkable and the government has high hopes for this project as it will address the country's water issues.

'Towards a climate resilient future in the water sector: Government of Maldives Signs Project Document with UNDP' - May 12, 2017. UNDP Maldives announce official signing with the Ministry for the delivery of safe and secure freshwater for vulnerable communites via the 'Supporting Vulnerable Communities to Manage Climate Change Induced Water Shortages'

Protecting (scarce) fresh water in the Maldives’  - April 15, 2016. Keti Chachibaia, Regional Technical Specialist for Climate Change Adaptation, UNDP’s Bangkok Regional Hub, throws light on water security in the Maldives and how funding from the Green Climate Fund will help make vulnerable communities more resilient in the face of climate change.pulation) in the islands of Maldives in the face of climate change risks.

Green Climate Fund approves first 8 Investments’ - November 2,2015. The Green Climate Fund announces the approval of funding for eight new projects, including the Maldives proposal for 'Supporting Vulnerable Communities to Manage Climate Change Induced Water Shortages' (GCF funding: 23.6 million) 

Information in French / Informations en français: 

Display Photo: 
About (Summary): 
Climate change impacts on water sector is already discernable in Maldives. Increase in rainfall variability, which is extending the dry season period, and sea level rise will have profound impacts on water security in the country. Unless anticipated climate change risks are urgently addressed, the water stress is going to be the main limiting factor for human development in the country. In response to the climate change challenge, this project will ensure the delivery of safe and secure freshwater to 105,000 people in the outer islands of the Maldives through the scale up of an integrated water production system, the introduction of decentralized and cost-effective dry season water distribution mechanisms and the improvement of groundwater quality. As a result, the project will reduce the human, environmental and social impacts of drinking water shortages experienced during the dry season and will build a long-term resilience to climate change impacts.
Expected Key Results and Outputs (Summary): 

Output 1: Scaling up an integrated water supply systems to provide safe water to 105,000 people


Output 2: Dry Season water production and distribution


Output 3: Aquifers recharged and protected

Civil Society Engagement: