The Environment of Mauritius

 

 

 

The southern coast of mainland Mauritius

 

View of south eastern seaboard

Red Guavas (Psidium cattleianum) a highly successful exotic species from South America. A delicious fruit too! Highly appreciated by all!

 

 

The Republic of Mauritius consists of mainland Mauritius, the islands of Rodrigues, Agalega, St Brandon, Tromelin and the Chagos Archipelago (illegally detached from Mauritius by the British before Independence to make way for an Anglo-American military base). Mainland Mauritius and Reunion island were created by the activities of undersea volcanoes that erupted about 20 million years ago. In Mauritius, volcanic activity ceased about 10,000 years ago.

Being in the subtropical region of the globe, Mauritius has a climate with an average rainfall pattern of 2000 mm per year and temperatures that rarely go below 15 C in winter and rarely go above 35 C in summer. The latter begins in September and ends in March and it corresponds with the rainy and cyclonic season. Winter begins in April and end in August and it is fairly dry.

Over the ages a unique fauna and flora have evolved with no interference from humans, nature was the sole agent of change of the environment. The subsequent arrival of humans and the establishment of permanent settlements have had drastic effect on the environment. The disappearance of the flightless Dodo early in the 17th century, the gradual shrinkage of the original forest cleared away for agriculture, settlements and roads, the introduction of alien species (animal and vegetal) which have successfully competed with the indigenous ones, are obvious examples.

The presences of numerous rivers and streams, abundant rainfall, fertile land and a productive lagoon have enabled the island to support a sizeable population through agriculture and artisanal fishery ever since the 17th century.

Under the Dutch during the 17th century, the economy of the island was mainly based on the felling of trees and the export of wood to Holland and some subsistence agriculture. So much wood was exported to Holland that prices there collapsed at one point whilst large parts of the island were deforested. The Dutch also introduced sugar cane cultivation and deer rearing, legacies that still endure centuries later.

Under the French from 1715 and under the British from 1810, the economy of the island was based mainly upon agriculture (mainly sugar cane cultivation, tea plantations and subsistence agriculture) and coastal fisheries. Large sections of the island were being cleared for agriculture.

This combination helps to explain why up to half of the island is under sugar cane cultivation with more than half of the population rural, and why the coastline has always been dotted with numerous fishing villages.

 

 

Sugar cane fields Introduced by the Dutch during the 17th century.

Deer rearing in Mauritius Legacy of the Dutch (courtesy Karim Amjaud, France)

A fishing boat Rodrigues Island (courtesy Maria Jurcevic, Croatia)

 

 

Tea fields on central plateau (courtesy Karim Amjaud, France)

 

 

From the seventies onwards there has been a relentless drive towards industrialization and tourism. This has led to 40 years of spectacular increases in the standard of living of the population together with significant changes in consumption patterns.

Changes in consumption patterns with significant increases in population mean that new demands are being thrust on the environment: new lands needed for property development, roads and factories, greater outputs from agriculture with large increases in agro-chemical usage, increased demands for fish from the lagoon and fishing banks, more solid and liquid waste pollution.

Like any other country, Mauritius is at a crossroads because the environment cannot be taken for granted any longer. There is an urgent need to manage the impacts of development and population growth on the local environment in view of achieving sustainability.

 

 

View of Port Louis Capital City - (courtesy Karim Amjaud, France)

 

 

A friendly spider in a garden!

 

The following sections describe the resources of the island and the different environmental stresses development and population growths have resulted in.

Water, Uses & Pollution / Marine Resources / Coastal Zones / The Lagoon

Forestry / Fauna / Flora

 

 

Secondary forest close to the Black River National Park

 

Ilot Benitiers South West Mauritius

 

 

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Date on the web: 26th of January, 1998

Last Update: 12th of December 2011

 

 

 

Mare aux Vacoas Main water reservoir during the dry season