Education and Capacity Building for Resources and Risk Management in Remote Outposts capitalizing on PEER projects on water, drought and hazards: Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll in Southern Maldives

Principal Investigator: Mohamed Aslam Co-Principal Investigator: Lareef Zubair
Coordinator: Aishath Abdulla Coordinator: Ashara Nijamdeen
Team: Aishath Abdulla, Shahaama Sattar, Hussein Zahir

Based on the suggestion of our PEER program manager (Dr. Dalal Najib), we proposed to support Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning in the remote island schools in Southern Maldives. The project is being undertaken in the Fares-Maathoda and Thinadhoo islands in the Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll by the equatorial passage. 

We were able to prepare instruments and documentation and trialing procedures were undertaken. After obtaining permission to work with the Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll Education Centre and Huvadhoo School, discussions were held with the principals, teachers to plan project implementation.

Can drought and flood hazard be skillfully assessed at fine spatial resolution from combining constrained streams of observed, remotely sensed and model predicted data in Sri Lanka and the Maldives? (August 2015 � July 2018)

PI: Piyasena Wickamagamage (FECT)
Co-PIs: Lareef Zubair (FECT), Zahid (Madives Meteorological Services)
Partner: Dr. Randall Koster (NASA Space Flight Center)

The project involves expanding, testing, and implementing a hazard analysis framework using data from satellite estimates for soil moisture and prediction products from NASA and NOAA, for combining multiple terrestrial indicators to estimate the probability of drought and floods in Sri Lanka and Maldives. The project is funded by USAID – Peer program.

Developing Monitoring Tools for Managing Drought Risk and addressing the riddle of Increased Drought Tendency amidst the Wetter Climate Change Projections in Sri Lanka and Maldives

Co-PIs: Lareef Zubair (FECT), Mizna Mohamed (Madivian National University)
Partner: Dr. Bradfield Lyon

In Maldives, climate change is leading to deterioration of groundwater reservoirs through its impacts on sea level rise, coral bleaching and land use practices. Although, climate change and its impacts on water scarcity and drought risk are of critical importance, the scientific understanding is not commensurate to the risk; nor are the available information accessed. Major policy decisions and large projects related to water scarcity are being undertaken without a robust basis in climate projections. Through this project we are planning to assess the impacts of climate variability and change on the �water scarcity� or gap between demand and supply that shall help guide future planning.

Our overall goals are to develop operational state of the art drought assessments using climate information and to more reliable assess the climate change impacts on drought risk in Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the next decades. Scientific goals and objectives of this project are,

  1. To better characterize drought historically and develop a skillful operational drought monitoring system,
  2. To provide the best assessments of climate change over Sri Lanka and Maldives with characterization of uncertainty and its impacts on future droughts,
  3. To generate assessments �including confidence levels – of water scarcity and drought risk.

Development Related Goals and Objectives of this project: The overall goals are to develop operational tools for drought monitoring, and to provide the best assessments of climate change. The development related objectives are to,

  1. Undertake detailed water scarcity assessments in two locales in the Mahaweli river basin in Sri Lanka and in two islands in the Maldives.
  2. Disseminate the results (via websites, advisories, policy briefs and scientific publications) and
  3. Build capacity and support tertiary education (training of junior researchers, support for student researchers, workshops for water and disaster managers, and contributions to ongoing teaching).

Intra-seasonal climate predictions for Sri Lanka and Maldives for water resources management

PI: Lareef Zubair, Foundation for Environment, Climate and Technology, 
Partner: Adam H. Sobel, Columbia University

Climate fluctuations at intra-seasonal time scales (beyond a few days to a few months) have profound influences on management of water resources to generate hydroelectricity and irrigate agricultural lands. Any ability to anticipate these fluctuations is valuable. Recent, improvements in understanding of intra-seasonal (IS) climate variability and the availability of real-time satellite based observations have led to the emergence of methodologies for IS climate predictions from a few days up to a month. This project aims to bring to bear climate variability insights from a National Science Foundation-sponsored program called DYNAMO focused on the Western Equatorial Indian Ocean. Specifically, the researchers will test IS climate predictions and assess their use for water management in Sri Lanka.

The overall goal of the project is to promote better understanding of IS variability of rainfall around Sri Lanka and Maldives, refine prediction schemes, translate this information to support water management, and upgrade local capcity for climate science and climate services. Even modest improvements in IS predictions can lead significant social and economic consequences from anticipatory water management. Because of the principal investigator’s affiliation with the Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka, which is the nation’s coordinating agency for water management, the project has potential for near-term impact as improved prediction models are developed and tested.

Intra-seasonal climate predictions for Sri Lanka and Maldives for water resources managementAssessing Water Scarcity and Alternative Mitigation options for the Maldives

In recent years, there has been more frequent water scarcity that could be further exacerbated by climate change, increasing water demands and other environmental hazards. There are increasing reports of groundwater contamination in 70 islands. This project seeks to characterize the water scarcity, project its evolution and provide a rationale for appropriate interventions for mitigating water scarcity in the coming decades.

The three objectives of this work are

  1. An analysis of the gap between water supply and demand, identification of its spatial footprint and how this gap shall evolve under different demographic/growth/climate scenarios in key islands.
  2. Analysis of interventions to mitigate water scarcity and the associated reduction in gap between use and demand. and
  3. Assessment of the cost of each intervention at several scales.Reporting and Dissemination.

Masters in Development Practice (MDP)

This program was developed by the University of Peradeniya in collaboration with the Foundation for Environment, Climate and Technology (FECT), the Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL), the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the Maldivian Ministry of Environment. This programme is supported by MacArthur Foundation, Chicago as a node of a global network of 22 Universities that are offering MDP.

Climate and Dengue in the Maldives- 2014 Onwards


  • Post-Graduate Research Centre, Maldives National University
  • Health Protection Agency of the Ministry of Health
  • Columbia University Water Center

Through this project, we are investigating the links between dengue transmission and climate in the Maldives with an aim to understand the seasonal and spatial variability of dengue and its transmission.

Planning for Capacity and Science Development in Climate in Maldives (2009-2011)

This collaboration focuses on capacity development for climate analysis at the Ministry of Environment. With the Maldivian National University, we hope to support curriculum development, research collaboration, and internship placements for Maldivian and foreign students on relevant topics. Funded internally.

Satellite Rainfall Monitoring Tool (2009-2010)

Michael Bell and Lareef Zubair at Columbia University have developed a tool to obtain 10 years of rainfall history over every 100/250 km regions in the Maldives. These compare well with ground observations from Maldivian Meteorological Service.

Climatological Analysis (2010-2011)

In Collaboration with the Climate Division of the Department, monthly climate analysis from ground and satellite observations were completed. Marked differences in Climate from North to South of Maldives were quantified. A research paper on El Nino impacts on Maldives has been drafted.

Chart: Average Monthly Rainfall over Maldives at Gan, Hulhule, Kadhdhoo and Hanimaadhoo for the last 20 years.

Climate Predictions for Maldives (2011 onwards)

Every month, IRI produces climate predictions for 3-6 months ahead � we are now trying to improve the coverage so that all islands are covered and skill
analysis is undertaken.

Launching a Masters in Sustainable Development Practice at the University of Peradeniya (2010-onwards)

This program focuses on Sri Lanka and Maldives. FECT supports collaboration with Maldives through curriculum development, research support, and placements for Maldivian students at the University of Peradeniya. Opportunity is available for foreign students to undertake research for Maldives and for fostering relationship with Maldivian institutes. The program is funded by MacArthur Foundation.

Partner Projects

Columbia Dynamo Project Columbia Marine Biology Project in the Arabian Sea

PI: Joaquim Goes, Lamont Dohery Earth Observatory
1121022: Quantitative Importance and Trophic Role of Noctiluca Blooms in the Arabian Sea