Environmental Stresses in Mauritius

 

 

New office blocks in Ebene Cyber City

 

 

Prior to independence (1968), Mauritius was an impoverished country with rapid population growth and a narrow economic base centred on sugar and tea exports for foreign exchange earnings. The economy really took off as from the early 70’s when the price of sugar on the world market suddenly increased. Simultaneously, the export processing zone (EPZ) was launched and tourism developed.

Although population growth levelled off fairly quickly, the resultant high population density and rapid economic development have meant that greater demands have been made on the environment in Mauritius.

Urbanisation has encroached on agricultural and forested lands, water is not yet scarce but massive investment is needed to keep up with growing demands. Until fairly recently, the treatment of domestic and industrial sewage was lagging and part of it was left untreated, flowing directly into the surrounding lagoon. 

However, over the years the sewage network has been extended and will cover half of the island. Raw sewage is now being treated at the St Martin treatment plant and now the effluent discharge is fairly clean water.

 

 

Black River water fall

 

Heavily urbanised coastline – Cap Malheureux

 

 

The tourism industry and other related business activities have developed mainly on fragile coastal zones. The greater importance beaches and the sea have acquired as leisure centres for the population over the years, the increased number of tourists on the island and the pressure from property developers for more coastal land place considerable pressure on coastal ecosystems.

It is urgent to address the issues of coastal zone management, tourist development and access to beaches by the public before the situation becomes inextricable.

 

 

Hotel directly on beachhead – Northern coast

 

Coastal works in lagoon – west coast

 

Agriculture and sugar, still important for the economy, are heavily dependent on very important inputs of fertilisers and herbicides of which Mauritius is a heavy user. It is important to assess the sustainability of such practices.

Industrial fishing also is important for the country, especially now since it is a major contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

 

 

Tea fields – Bois Cherie - (courtesy Karim Amjaud, France)

 

 

Derelict wooden houses in Port Louis

 

 

The management of solid waste consists mainly of dumping the wastes after compaction in a landfill that was opened in 1999 at Mare Chicose. It is an improvement on the previous practices of open-air dumps most of which are now closed. A foreign consortium has recently proposed to Government plans to incinerate waste for the production of power.

Recycling is still in its infancy and few recycling plants exist. But in the coming years, it is expected that recycling will become more common place. Indeed, the size of the island and its limited capacity to absorb an ever-growing quantity of waste makes recycling inevitable.

 

 

Open air dump in Poudre D’Or – Now closed

 

View of Port Louis – (Courtesy of Karim Amjaud – France)

 

 

The number of vehicles on the roads has shot up dramatically over the past few decades. The inevitable result is congestion on the roads, traffic jams and increased journey time to and from work at peak times in spite of a spectacular improvement in the local road network.

 

 

Road Traffic in Port Louis

 

 

Electrical Power generation is principally dependent on coal and oil as around 70% of electricity generated is from those fossil fuels. The remainder comes from hydroelectric power and bagasse (the fibrous residue left after the processing of sugar cane). Renewable energy sources have not been developed sufficiently, though sugar-cane factories have burned bagasse for years to generate electric power.

 

 

 

La Preneuse Public Beach – West Coast

 

Along with this picture of increasing environmental problems and stresses due to a modern way of life, there is also the need to preserve a unique fauna and flora that have evolved over millions of years, spectacular scenery, beautiful lagoons, beaches and forests for the enjoyment of all. One must not forget that being an oceanic country, Mauritius has marine resources of considerable value that need protection.

 

The Kestrel – Endemic to Mauritius

 

Public protest march against a proposed solid waste incinerator project – La Chaumiere – May 2009

 

But there is hope; citizens become much more aware of the need to address environmental problems. Government, non-governmental organisations, research institutions and even private companies get involved in environmental work to ensure that our country remains viable. Welcome to Paradise…

 

 

Ilot Benitiers – West coast

 

Date on the web: 22nd of January 1998

Last update: 4th of November 2011