By Linley Bignoux
Back in 2012, the government of Mauritius announced that it would tackle environmental issues with stronger environmental policy, but how has that faired un the real world up to the present day?
In what was deemed my news media as a large-scale effort by the government to tackle environmental degradation issues and cement policy on the environment, with the Ministry of Environment outlining that an intact holistic environmental policy was fulfilled in 2012.
Similarly, the Mauritian government had also appointed the help of consulting firm Mott MacDonald from the United Kingdom, the firm had consulted the government on environmental sustainability and environmental sustainability projects.
Aside policy by politicians, let’s attempt to put things into perspective and context when it comes to Mauritius environmental issues it’s facing. The island nation currently is facing invasive species, issues both marine and land-based, agricultural chemical runoff, solid waste disposal issues, soil erosion which is occurring via commercial development of land and coastal soil erosion, this with its constant threat of dwindling endemic wildlife, which is being monitored closely for well over a decade now
Coastal erosion is one of the biggest issues alongside rapidly intensive cyclonic conditions in the predominantly summer months, scientists do point out there is a correlation between climate change and more frequent yet drastic occurrences of cyclones in the south-west Indian Ocean region, where Mauritius is situated geographically.
Another detrimental environmental concern is coral reef degradation and erosion, this is of particular importance in terms of the well established yet growth developing Mauritian tourism industry, which the nation is well known for globally. Environmental impacts on the marine environment and marine life have created ecological problems for decades now,
Likewise, Mauritius environmental issues being an island have the default problem in the form of rising water levels due to climate change on the coastal zones and outside the lagoons, The vast yet compact agricultural activities of the past have created lasting effects as well.
Current road infrastructure development and constant commercial building development, overfishing, coral and sand extraction for hotel development and beach resurfacing, dredging of coastal for residential apartments and hotel buildings and version and siltation due the deforestation have created many environmental impacts that have been left untethered and unattended for far too long now.
While the natural course of actions that have influenced such an environment are cyclones and wave events. Unconstructive impacts of human activities on the marine environment are manifold. It includes the following: disturbance of local ecosystems, worsening of the water quality, wearing away of shores, the annihilation of coral community, declines in fish productivity, pollution of the seas by industrial effluents, sewage and agricultural runoff.
So how does Mauritius implement distinct environmental policy over the years to be able to deal with its environmental problems? Does environmental policy tackle real issues or do paper environmental whitepapers or policy deliver appropriate solutions to environmental problems?
Historically speaking Mauritius did not fare well in tackling environmental issues, however, it has been since 2008 a formal policy to tackle environmental issues via the distinct framework. To give you a rundown on the last decade or so on how this happened briefly :
Back then also the then Minister for Environment and Sustainability, Mr Devanand Virahsawmy, pointed out that the MID project was in its final stages and that private sector stakeholders were to discuss how to balance economic interests with that of environmental concerns which involve securing energy resources for the future and handle waste management problems.
While reading the objective of the MID initiative is somewhat extensive and has some practical suggestions, generally, speaking does it attempt is to consolidate and further move Mauritius along an environmentally sustainable path whilst staring a green economy mindset within the government. This also with a focus on primary reduction in the island nations dependence on fossil fuels, an increase in energy efficiency and stemming climate change effects.
Likewise, the government has conveyed to journalists press conferences that more projects are to be outlined. The consulting firm Mott MacDonald drafted with the government 5 important categories to focus their attention on which come under the umbrellas of energy, natural environment, education, employment and equity.
The Ministry of Environment currently says the project is a joint venture one and that non-governmental organizations from Mauritius have developed and provided information in consultation committees since 2008, which in turn is considered by the government, decorating policy on the environmental degradation and biodiversity.
Moreover, A consultive approach towards identifying a national strategy for sustainable development whilst aiming to take a holistic view upon the whole society is what this may be about, outlining the projects earmarked are an important part of the nation’s future.
Environmental commentators have commented on the Maurice Ile Durable project saying it belongs to the whole Mauritian nation and its citizens an iterating that it is a social project essentially a vision that seeks to transform the environmental, economic and social landscape of the nation currently.
Commentators have added further by saying that such environmental policy projects are a step in the right direction and that will take time to fully realise its stated objectives and initiatives, nevertheless, industrial, social and environmental stakeholders have to have involvement for it to work, taking time to implement, however, the government’s action plan is positive.
Maurice Ile Durable policy has created some grassroots positive outcomes along the way, such as solar water heater schemes, replacement of traffic lights by using LED lighting to save energy, distribution of renewable energy kits to schools around the nation with further projects in wind and solar energy been built.
While much of the project stands to be tested over time, it is a step in the right direction, albeit the number of projects earmarked versus its practical usage to tackle impending environmental issues that face Mauritius now and well into the future.