Rapid Environmental Assessment Republic of Maldives

Joint United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/ The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Environment Unit (2005)

On 26 December 2004, an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale caused powerful tsunamis that reached the Maldives around 9:30 in the morning. A United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team was deployed on 27 December in the Maldives, to carry out rapid assessment of priority needs and to support national authorities and the United Nations Resident Coordinator to coordinate international relief on-site. Upon request of the Ministry of Environment and Construction (MEC), a rapid environmental assessment of the impacts of the tsunami on the Republic of Maldives was undertaken by the UNDAC environmental team member. Assessment missions were carried out, together with humanitarian missions, to identify any life threatening environmental emergencies as a result of the tsunami. The main findings of the assessment include: - There are no major life threatening environmental emergencies as a result of the tsunami that struck the Maldives on 26 December 2004

- Areas of major environmental and human health concern have been identified and include emergency waste management and an oil spill on Thilafushi Island

- Severe damage to vegetation and crops, pollution of groundwater and the potential damage to the coral reefs system are of serious concern and the medium and longer-term impacts of the environment should be fully assessed. The negative environmental impacts of the tsunami exacerbated the plight of an already fragile environment, which suffered from years of neglect.