The recently opened ‘Rasfannu’ artificial beach in Malé’s west coast has been closed to swimmers after an underwater sewage pipe in the area burst open.
Fazeel Rasheed, an official from Malé Water and Sewerage Company, said one of the sewage pipes extending into the ocean from the northwestern side of the capital was found to be leaking, prompting the housing ministry to close the beach for swimming.
The ministry has put up boards advising swimmers not to go into the water while work is ongoing to fix the leak.
“We were alerted to the leak yesterday evening and we fixed it last night. We are currently working to enforce the fixed area of the pipe,” Fazeel said.
The beach remains closed to swimmers despite the repair.
Housing Minister Mohamed Muizz told local media that Rasfannu will reopen to the public after testing the water for possible contamination.
“It was a minor leak, but we closed off the beach for the health safety of the public. The leak was fixed with a lot of work, but we won’t open it until we have tested the water,” he said.
Prior to the opening of Malé’s second artificial beach, a local youth group warned that sewage outflow from pipes in the area and medical waste from the nearby Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital pose serious dangers to swimmers.
The DhiYouth Movement said in January that a snorkelling team from its cleanup project Damage Control had found an increase in sedimentation and dead corals since construction began. The biggest damage to the surrounding reef is caused by sewage pipes and garbage dumped into the sea, the NGO said.
In response, the health ministry said: “Regular monitoring tests of the new Artificial beach water show no faecal contamination and meet the standards for recreational water.”
Opposition aligned Raajje TV reported today that it had commissioned independent tests, and found “dangerous levels” of Enterococcus and fecal coliform bacteria, which cause infections such as urinary tract infections, typhoid and gastroenteritis
The Environmental Impact Assessment report for Rasfannu found last September that the project could cause water pollution and reef slope failure.
The report had noted that continuous and careful monitoring would be needed to ensure the safety of swimmers.
According to Raajje TV, the EIA for the beach project was conducted without adequate sample testing of the water.
Fazeel said that the MWSC, which follows the guidance of Environment Protection Agency, inspects the sewage pipelines only twice a year.
Members of the public meanwhile appear to have mixed feelings about the swimming area.
“It’s a nice place, but not safe to go in the water. Since the place opened, the water looks polluted. Kids come here and want to play in the water, but we know it’s not safe for swimming,” a middle-aged man at the beach told The Maldives Independent.
Others at the beach echoed his sentiments.
“This place was made with sand brought from somewhere else, it took some time to settle in. The water looked unclear for days,” said a young man named Ali Riza.
“Also, we have boats out here in the west side. What about the waste and fuel from those boats?”