Mauritius: Oil spill the result of 'criminal negligence'

August 11, 2020

An ecological catastrophe is unfolding in Mauritius, as oil continues to spill from a Japanese bulk carrier that struck a reef off its coast on July 25.

Mauritian ecosocialist organisation Rezistans ek Alternativ (RA) has criticised the government for its inaction over two weeks since the ship ran aground, which may have prevented this disaster.

RA is mobilising volunteers to deploy booms made out of bags filled with sugarcane straw and other materials donated by the public, to try to contain the oil spill, which threatens pristine coastline and sea life.

Already 1000 tons of oil has escaped. If the ship breaks further apart, another 2500 tons could also spill into the ocean.

RA spokesperson Ashok Subron said on August 10: "Years and years, they are refusing to respect nature and ocean.

"Each year they’ve undermined social and citizen’s control capacities. Look what is happening with the EIAs (Environmental Impact Assessments). Each annual budget is removing the possibility to citizens to defend the ocean, nature, wetlands…

"It is this politic that is responsible for what is happening today…

"They are not allowing citizens to defend their country.

"Some, I am learning are coming to learn with their gumboots to learn how to make these booms … it’s too late. There are initiatives that should have already been taken.

Mauritius' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) constitutes an area of about 2 million km2 in the Southern Indian Ocean.

Subron said: "You cannot claim 2.3 million km2 of maritime zone (EEZ) and have the Prime Minister say that we do not have the means to deal with petroleum vessels in our sea.

"Looking at how things were done in last 12–13 days ... it is ‘criminal negligence’.

"The massive presence of people here is showing that the authorities have failed, and they need to apologise to Mauritians. The authorities need to apologise, because of the destruction happening at sea, in the south.

"This place is among the most pristine that existed in Mauritius in opposition to the north that have been grabbed and subject to problems.

"The authorities are guilty, all people here are witnesses of this criminal negligence. The authorities and government have failed and need to apologise now and to future generations.

"We need to have Nature’s Right in the Constitution of our country.

"If we had those rights today, we could have gone to court and sued those incompetents that have participated in this negligence. Many things could have been done in those 12 days. Because they’ve done nothing, the citizens took initiatives.

"Rezistans ek Alternativ has humbly contributed on Thursday (Oil spill Day1) and we have come up with a form of contribution that could engage citizens.

"What we are seeing is that in opposition to the destruction, we are witnessing another Mauritius is being built, anchored in Mauritianism; that protects life, we’ve seen how important life is with the COVID19; that cares for ecosystem and protects nature of our country.

"But all (mainstream) political parties bear a responsibility in the erosion in the past years, but this government bears the responsibility of criminal negligence and need to apologise to the newly born of this land and the southern part of this island. They owe us at least that apology and acknowledge their failure.

"We do not know how many months of cleaning… [the] latest updates are saying at least 5 months only for cleaning … Regeneration of life, no one knows how many years it will take. All will depend on the amount of destruction.

"There is an ecological consciousness that is arising, so we need Nature’s Rights in the Constitution; we need to have the necessary logistics to protect our maritime zone.

"It is not possible to see a vessel likely to drift in our ocean and [to] need to ask the authorisation of X country, Y or Z company ... before taking measures against a vessel threatening the whole country. This is totally irresponsible.

"The presence of Mauritians here is indicating that we need to act. We need constitutional amendments now. In the coming week. This is the least [PM] Pravind Jugnauth and his advisors can do.

"This is what Rezistans ek Alternativ has to say today. We are proud that a new Mauritius is emerging that is putting nature and life at the centre and this is what will be the roadmap for this new Mauritius."

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