Afriend in need is a friend indeed. India proved to be that friend who came to the support of its island neighbor, Maldives, in times of their extreme need. Maldives had a crisis when their only source of fresh water supply got disrupted by a fire on 04 Dec 14. This was soon declared to be a humanitarian emergency and the Maldives government appealed for help from Indian government on a priority basis. The prompt actions by Indian Navy and India in general, became an epitome of friendship and demonstrated the efficiency of the Indian Navy to the world in response to Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief.
A fire had broken out at the MaleWater and Sewerage Company (MWSC) generator control panel at 1530 h on 04 Dec 14 shutting down production of fresh water. Although the fire was brought under control by MNDF fire services in two hours, the damage in the control panel and cabling of the generator controlling all the RO plants resulted in non availability of any of the RO plants. At 1700 h the water supply was disconnected due to availability of water only in the storage tanks and sumps of Male’. The estimated daily requirement of Male’was 13000 metric tons and the Government of Maldives was in a position to provide water for only one hour every twelve hours. At 2100 h, this was declared as a national crisis by the President of Maldives.
The expectations of government of Male to get at least three of the nine systems ready by 05 Dec 14 proved false. MWSC was unable to get even two of the working systems online. Bottled water soon became unavailable in the market and the supply of water needed to be continued until partial restoration of the system could be achieved. Maldives Foreign Minister appealed to the India for an Indian Naval ship. Accordingly, INS Deepak was despatchedto proceed to Male from Mumbai on 05 Dec 14 to provide succour to the people of Maldives.
The ship sailed with 850 tons of fresh water in the cargo tanks and 120 tons of fresh water for her own use. During transit, the ship continued to produce water with its own RO plants. The ship reached the island of Male on 07 Dec 14 and secured alongside on the only Commercial Berth at about 1900h. Initially the ship supplied 1250 tons of fresh water and by 14 Dec had supplied a total of 1984 tons to Maldives. Water was directly pumped into the main tanks which were used to pressurize the pipe lines enabling the repair work to be carried out efficiently. Until arrival of Deepak, INS Sukanya had provided assistance by transferring water into the 35 ton capacity water barges while at anchorage. Indian Airforce had supplied another 150 tons of packaged water.
PLA Navy ships and BN ships also provided assistance to Male’. Sri Lanka too continued to supply 10 tons of fresh water bottles through regular civil airlines from Colombo. The total operation cost was estimated to be Rs. 2,55,02,199.80. Swift action by India and the Indian Navy was appreciated globally. The news channels and social media were agog with praises for our efforts. Epitaphs such as ‘trustworthy friend’, “time-tested friend”; “India to the Rescue as always” to quote a few examples were liberally sprinkled all over the media. Former President of Maldives Abdul Gayoom said “India has once again proved what a great friend of Maldives it is”. The successful culmination of ‘OpNeer’ demonstrated the quick reaction capability and efficient response of the Indian Navy in Humanitarian Aid to a needy neighbour.