The Conflicting Demands of the Tourist Industry and the Public
The Ile Aux Cerfs Golf Project: A Case Study
Return to: Ile Aux Cerfs
In July 1998, the Sun group made public its plan to create a golf course on it. Almost immediately, there has been a flurry of public protest over the project with the local press being very vocal, members of the public outspoken, a local political party staging protests on the island itself whereas the Minister for Tourism publicly expressing support for the golf project. It is clear that passions run high on the issue.
The golf course would be situated in that part of the island that is not regularly visited by the public and which presently is unused. The interior of the island is covered with vegetation comprised of exotics and some endemic species. The project would consist of an eighteen-hole course and a clubhouse.
It appears from the Environment Impact Assessment report that the golf course would cover an area of 40 hectares and that would entail the clearing of 20 hectares of vegetation with very important earth works.
Objections to the Project
The objections to this project are manifold and can be summarised as follows:
- Whether 20 hectares of land or more is cleared, this is a significant area. This clearing of land will not be without consequences for it will expose the soil, leaving it open to wind and water erosion and flash floods. Not only will that lead to a loss of top soil but sediments will find their way into the lagoon causing untold damage to the nearby corals and mangroves. This potential threat is not appropriately catered for in the E.I.A. report.
- Once the golf course operational, massive amounts of water, fertilisers (up to 300 kg per hectare per year according to the report) and herbicides will be used. It is obvious that the grass will not take up all of the water or chemicals poured on it. A significant percentage will certainly percolate through the sandy soil and find its way in the nearby lagoon contaminating it. In the report, no serious attempt has been made to estimate this percentage and the potential impact thereof. After all if the golf course is to take up 47 or 20 hectares of land, 300 kg of fertiliser per hectare per year means that somewhere between 14100 kg to 6000 kg will be used per year. Where that fertiliser will end up is a major concern not addressed in the report.
- Herbicides are also a source of concern. After all they are very powerful poisons and their use in sandy soils together with the fact that this soil is so porous could mean that non-negligible amounts of theses substances might find their way into the nearby lagoon with potentially disastrous results. It is important to bear in mind that on mainland Mauritius, minute traces of herbicides used in sugar cane fields have been found in rivers (M.S.I.R.I. research work). Hence it cannot be excluded that use of herbicides may lead to minute but measurable amount of theses substances finding their way into the surrounding lagoon. Furthermore the impact of minute concentrations of herbicides on lagoon ecology is, at this point, totally unknown.
- Although the golf course is to take up only 47 hectares of land, the way the 18 tracks have been scattered throughout the island means that once operational, the interior of the island will, for all intents and purposes, be inaccessible to any one except players and staff. Furthermore it is clear that the whole of the interior of the island will have to be fenced off for security reasons, after all it would be dangerous for people to wander off onto the golf course while players are at their game. Hence, the public perception of the course will be a highly negative one. Resentment is bound to be stirred and passions let loose.
- The fact that the major part of the island will be off limits by anyone else except staff and players for the above mentioned security reasons means that the remainder of the island will be unavailable for further development. Hence the use of only 47 hectares will, in effect, preclude further development on the island. That is a most unfortunate outcome because an 18-hole golf course can, at most, satisfy around a dozen players per day. Whereas the present facilities in the northern part of the island presently accommodates up to 800 visitors per day. The disparity is enormous. It is unacceptable that the larger part of the island will be used for a project benefiting a minority of players while the majority of visitors is squeezed onto a restricted area with little hope of ever expanding amenities for the majority as the golf course precludes further development.
- That Sun Resorts wishes to develop Ile Aux Cerfs is a laudable effort. But a golf course that will necessarily benefit a minority is not acceptable. There are other ways to develop the island in such a way that both the general public and tourists benefit from the amenities. It is time that the development of tourist resorts, amenities and infrastructures is done in view of offering quality services that can be enjoyed by the general public and tourists. The limited space available in Mauritius, the ever increasing number of mauritians that seek leisure, the flow of tourists and the needs of the local coastal inhabitants are all factors that should encourage development that is responsible, sustainable and acceptable to all parties involved. A golf course is not an example of such a type of development.
Some recent press articles on Ile aux Cerfs (in French)
Parcours de golf: L'abattage des arbres a débuté sur l'île-aux-Cerfs (7 juillet 2002)
SUR FRANCE-INTER: Gilles Clément dénonce la " dévastation écologique " de Maurice (24 juin 2002)
Abattage illégal d'arbres sur l'île aux cerfs (6th of September 2001)
Parcours de golf à l'île-aux-cerfs: Le ministère de la Pêche favorable (26th September 2001)
Last Update: 20th of July 2002
Date on the web: 10th of February 1999