By Linley Bignoux
The island nation of Mauritius is largely seen as developed middle to high-income economy with both financial and social prosperity that is above average for the region that has been reported by many international governmental and private sector firms.
Whilst this may be the case for many developing and transient economies worldwide, its environmental report card seems to be lacking in many areas, this is, of course, true of well-developed economies as well, however, the list of future environmental degradation issues, both marine and land-based are rising issue that the island nation needs to adequately tackle now and in the years to come.
Having said this it’s a bit of a wonder that we call planet our home that is planet earth, as it is termed around our vast world of ours. It has to be noted by far that our planet is an ocean planet beset by 70 per cent of water, which undoubtedly is one ocean, with the remaining 20 per cent being constituted of land, our green planet.
This mass of truly immense proportions that is called our oceans is in itself large and dynamic. It’s also in peril and will churn out the sums of negative consequences for the human race and countries around the world, transcending borders, and that includes Mauritius if more than most when it comes to the oceanic realm and its government.
In the context of conservation and the natural environment of the ocean and coastal waters of Mauritius, the island can be viewed to be a peculiar and distinct one. Mauritius is the stereotypical paradise island for tourists, who arrive on the island to rest, relax and indulge in various activities on a sunny vacation such as snorkelling, scuba diving, big game fishing, water skiing, nature walks, and the list goes on.
Yes, the postcards and the photos of paradise at the travel agent in various European cities and scattered across the globe of pristine tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean, and the cliché; what an island, what a destination thing.
However, for all the glamour and marketing done in the airline brochures that were in front of your seat on the airline, there is a real problem or a situation in Mauritius to make it sound nice. And it starts with two things; present government and awareness and Mauritius Ile Durable (Mauritius Durable Island – central environmental policy).
Tourists and Mauritians benefit from the resources and processes provided by the coastal waters of Mauritius, the island logically being fringed almost entirely by coral reefs brings an important economic and social interaction.
When you look at the coral reefs here, you do not need to be a scientist or an economist to know that they attract tourists, which in turn boots local economies in Mauritius. Tourism is the world’s largest industry holistically speaking in terms of revenue and it sustains millions of jobs.
Undoubtedly, tourism in Mauritius, based on its business model, brings many benefits to the Mauritian economy and many localities; it does, however, have to be sustainably managed with proper planning coupled with managerial technique so to speak.
Management of the environmental impacts of the tourism industry and for that matter all industries in Mauritius has somewhat been elusive.
Overshadowed by economic or monetary gain, typical of transient economies or developing economies like Mauritius. Lacking foresight about the future and the sustainability of the country, especially when the public sector is concerned, is a dangerous game to play, and we will not pay for it now.
However, the bill is racking up the dollars, the bank interest is going to be immense. Mother nature will want its rent, it’s doing it now, and we just have not seen the final bill.
Now throw a hoodwinked government into the pan, and what do you have?
Yes reports have been submitted, projects are underway, awareness has been created and yeah more reports and strategies have been outlined, and yes we have Ile Durable! The boxes have been ticked ! Right!
Ile Durable, the all-encompassing environmental solution to all our problems and issues, rolled like a bowling ball ready to bowl over our environmental degradation matters, which so far into the epic story utters through the governments rhetoric and meaningless thoughts because let’s be honest, they are just thoughts jotted on a paper and dressed up to go the 5-star hotel at this stage, since 2008 that is.
The government points out to the Mauritian people and the independent media that they are tackling the environmental issues at hand and say they are being proactive in bringing on and driving home the solutions but it is just a marketing campaign dressed up in nice shiny shoes.
Meanwhile saying to Mauritians and the world that the country is on target to maintain its paper strategy and that conservation and sustainability, whether it be land or sea, are being adequately managed.
Ile Durable at this stage in its development is erring on the side of the Singapore project thing, remember that thing it goes like this; we want to base Mauritius on Singapore and be like Singapore etc. etc., no wonder Mauritians don’t take their government seriously, you got to laugh, Mauritius is not a banana republic per se, it has bananas in government, Maurice Ile Durable is reflecting some of these ideals as well.
Currently, many Mauritian citizens either don’t care about it, are not aware of it, or even worse, think it’s just another misinformed government project, that well, many Mauritians have been so accustomed to amid a communalist background set out by the government to divide the masses.
It boils down to two explanations: them and us theory i.e. government and its citizens! Also, the rule of constant awareness of a country’s citizens! On one side of the ring you have, the democratic government, its story goes like this on Ile Durable:
We are doing reports, we are doing another report with Long Term strategy, we have another long-term strategy that’s even longer than the first one, and we are going to have a consultation with this guy and that NGO and buy us some wind turbines and create thermal energy, etc. etc.
This is what the Mauritian citizens are saying: Umm we do not know what it is this Ile Durable thing! When are you going to tell us about it, what is it going to cost, what about green jobs, what is a blue economy, and last but not least, Mauritians are just maybe fed up with the whole lot of it and just more interested in going to shopping malls to drown their sorrows in serious buying because as its stands, the government is really out of touch with it all.
When I attended school in my early childhood life, one of my teachers told me to condense facts and structure plans, make people see what you are trying to achieve (this promotes understanding), and use the distinction in communicating my ideas properly in a concise fashion and if you have written a report, what makes it better than just a bunch o words on paper.
At this stage in Mauritian history, words speak louder than actions, contrary to popular belief, politicians may need to go back to school land and learn how to seriously sell their Maurice Ile Durable fantasy to the wider public.
Time and time again, warnings about the future dire consequences of the ongoing environmental degradation of coral reefs, the total lack of natural contiguous forests, the constant development of coastal lands and a whole host of other environmental issues and concerns in Mauritius have been reported by local and international media.
Yet reports can be submitted and boxes can be ticked in the government’s policy shortlist, but this alone will not deliver action.
While environmental policies are an effective way to a roadmap and navigate through the existing infrastructure to deal with environmental degradation issues facing Mauritius, they have in some ways become political that has become ineffective in dealing with the day-to-day or the ground issues the island nation faces, unfortunately, conversely this is mirrored around the world.
Indeed, environmental policies have their limits, their actions are subdued by the very words that are printed on paper to realise their proposed goals. In effect making many environmental policies “lacking” in progress, for lack of a better word.