On a recent trip to Mauritius, I was impressed by one golden thread that wound its way through all my interactions with the people, places, and products in the country – redemption.  Maurinet reports that “the first Europeans to have visited Mauritius were the Portuguese at the beginning of the sixteenth century (most probably in 1510). The Dutch who settled on the island in 1598 named it Mauritius after Prince Maurice of Nassau

MAURINET REPORTS that the first Europeans to have visited Mauritius were the Portuguese at the beginning of the sixteenth century (most probably in 1510). The Dutch who settled on the island in 1598 named it Mauritius after Prince Maurice of Nassau. Among other things, the Dutch introduced sugar cane and the Java deer before leaving in 1710, as they had found another settling place: The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. About five years later, in 1715, the French occupied the island, renaming it ‘Isle de France’. This was followed by the British settlement in 1810. Mauritius finally achieved independence on 12 March 1968 and adopted a constitution based on the British parliamentary system. The first post-independence years were difficult but after more than 15 years of planning and hard work, Mauritius achieved economic and political stability.

Mauritius changed its status to that of a Republic on 12 March 1992.” As human development continued to take over the occupation of the previ­ously uninhabited island, the negative effect on the environment and the devastation of the indigenous fauna and flora was rife and unchecked. The native vegetation and wildlife was ef­fectively wiped out; anyone remember the Dodo? They were quickly “consumed for food, leaving nothing but a long­ lost myth in their wake.

The topography of the island was vastly altered, as natural plant life was eradicated by slaves, forced to destroy everything in their path to make way for the planting of sugar cane. None of this sounds like the makings of a ·green story'”-except that, since its independence, the coun­try has been focussed on redemption, on righting the wrongs of the  past, and on doing what it can to build an ethos  of environmental protection, management and revitalisation. From its main industry, to the protection of its beaches, the eradication of plastic bags and the education of its people, the island has made an inspirational 180 degree turn in its eco-outlook. If ever there was a motivation that you are never too far gone, that there is always a chance for restoration, this is it.

SAVOURING THE SWEET THINGS IN LIFE

Due to its resilience, sugarcane has become Mauritius’ main industry (in addition to tourism] and has proven itself to be a sustainable crop. According to Kassiap Deepchand, of the Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute, ·the sugar industry in Mauritius has constantly been faced with challenges and it has always stood up to convert these challenges into opportunities to ensure sus­tainable productions of sugarcane and derived products.

Actions taken were mainly in the way of reforms to address technical, financial, socio­-economic, and environmental viability of the industry. Appropriate legislations (bearing in mind the specificity of Mauritius as a small island developing state) were implemented in order to facilitate the sustainability. To rein­ force this sustainability approach, Mauritius ensures  that  the  entire sugarcane growing  and processing process uses every part of the plant; whether to produce the final product of sugar or industrial rum, creating compost  to enrich  the soil for new crops, sourcing off cuts  to grow new crops from, or !yes, this isn’t a typo) even electricity.

IN FACT, 40 PERCENT OF THE COUNTRY’S NATIONAL POWER IS SOURCED FROM BY­ SUGARCANE PROCESSING.  

“The high photosynthetic capacity of sugar cane makes it an important source of energy. A comparison of the energy value of the cane biomass and the energy consumed in its harvest and cultivation shows a ratio of 20:1,” confirms Ms Marianela Cordoves Herrera, Director, Industrial Promotion, and GEPLACEA. ‘”This makes sugar cane a biomass of enormous interest at present, as alternatives are under study to reduce the rate of gas ac­cumulation and consequent global warming, as a result of the use of fossil fuels. The cane sugar industry creates its own fuel, bagasse, which is not only capable of satisfying the energy demands of the factory but generating surplus electricity, with the consequent ecological and eco­nomic benefits.’

ROADMAP OF THE SUGAR INDUSTRY

The Mauritian Government has created a road map to drive the industry in the right direction. It reflects that by 2015, independent power plants located in sugar factory sites were expected to export some 1 700 GWh of electricity. The optimal burning of bagasse in power plants with 83 bar boilers and condensing/pass out turbo alternators would yield some 600 GWh.

According to this roadmap, for the optimal use of bagasse:

  • All sugar factories will be coupled with firm power plant operating with state of the art technology;
  • Factories would be geared towards maximising energy savings;
  • Wherever possible, cane field residues would be used as fuel;
  • New plants would come on stream in Savannah [82MW in 20071 and Medine

[35 MW in 2011/20121 depending on the demand of CEB;

  • The existing plants in FUEL and Deep River Beau Champ would be replaced in 2008-2011 with more or less similar or slightly expanded dispatch capacity. Some 65MW is involved; and
  • All the power plants have to adhere to the environment norms applicable to them.

SUSTAINABLE TOURISM

Gone are the days when scuba divers could ravage oceans unchecked, when tourists were permitted to foul the land in exchange for foreign currency. Tourism is an important part of the Mauritian economy, but this must be regulated to ensure that the environ­ment is protected – after all, if there are no beautiful beaches, no lush forests, and no sea life, what would there be to draw tourists to the island? The Ministry of Tourism and leisure has certified Mauritius with an eco­ label grant scheme; MS165:2014 – Sustainable Tourism. The focus is on achieving a greener and more sus­tainable tourism industry. Together the Sustainable Tourism Alliance states that. Established as a regulatory body under the Tourism Act 2002, the Mauritius Tourism Authority IMTAI Mauritius is home to innumerable eco-friendly, green hotels, driving the sustainability agenda one visitor at a time.WHL travel is passionate about this sustainable approach. ·when living on an island, the proverb ‘what comes around goes around ‘takes on a whole new dimension. Practically speaking, the trash you throw into the river today will be the flotsam surrounding you when swimming in the lagoon tomorrow.

So it is better to think twice about the impact you are creating. Plus about the impact of the visitors you attract to the island as a tourism business. With not only an ever growing island population, but also a stark increase in tourism, nature preservation is without doubt one of the most important issues in Mauritius. And it is our challenge: According to a Mautourco representative, much is being done to preserve the island’s beaches and its sea life. She confirms that, for example, spe­cific trees have been planted along the beaches to prevent erosion. These are commonly casurinas (also known as filaos) and eucalyptus trees.

These also serve as windbreaks, and grow well in sandy soil, so are well suited to the job. The Blue lagoon and Coral Reef Monitoring Programme serves to protect and preserve the marine and coastal environment in Mauritius, while striving to restore what has been lost. As part of this programme, volunteers are sought to: monitor the lagoon; clean and monitor beaches and mangroves; provide local com­munity support; and drive the Sea Turtle Research Project.  

MAURITIUS.THE SUSTAINABLE ISLAND 

In 2014, The United Nations Environ­ment Programme (UNEP) announced that, since 2008, Sustainable Con­sumption and Production (SCPI was high on the development agenda of Mauritius. As a result a national pro­gramme was developed, focussing on SCP, with the support of UNEP in the context of the Marrakech Process. “This five-year programme, which was  implemented as from 2008, aimed to: • Decouple economic growth with environmental degradation; • Change  consumption patterns with respect to energy, water and products; • Bring behavioural change at both individual and corporate levels and  promote more  sustainable lifestyles; and • Promote synergies amongst  the key development sectors as it is directly linked  with  many  other development priorities, such as economic growth, job  creation, environmental protection, water and energy security, poverty alleviation, health and education.

“The programme focused on five priority areas: resource use efficiency with a focus on energy, water and sustainable buildings; education and communication for sustainable lifestyles; integrated solid waste management and recycling: sustain­ able public service practices; and increase market supply and demand for sustainable products.   Became fully operational with effect   from July 2003.”‘The MTA is a body corporate and is administered and managed by a Board.  The MTA is responsible for licensing, regulating and supervising the activities of tourist enterprises, pleasure crafts, skippers and canvassers.”‘

SUSTAINABLE HOUSING 

From sourcing reclaimed volcanic rock to build with, to ensuring homes are green and eco-friendly, sustain­ able housing is becoming the norm in Mauritius. The Evaco Group, for example, follows strict standards of environmental protection, and projects are developed according to ecological norms. The property group prides itself on having built all of its projects in an eco-friendly way. This is a reflec­tion that it is not just the tourism and sugar industries that are delivering on environmental protection.   Sure, the original settlers didn’t do the best job of looking after the Mauritian environment. Yes, a lot of backtracking and recouping will need to be implemented to right the wrongs of the past; but Mauritius message is clear: this is not an excuse not to try. It isn’t perfect, there is still work to do- this is the nature of the environment, it is ever changing, never ending and needs constant protection. During my visit, my most notable observation was the pride the people took in keep­ing their own environments clean. From opulent private residences, to make-shift homesteads, there was no visible litter, and the residents clearly took great pride in keeping their sur­roundings tidy.

MAURITIUS IS LEADING AN INSPIRATIONAL WAR ON THE DEGRADATION OF THE ENVIRONMENT, REDEEMING ITSELF AS THE SUSTAINABLE ISLAND.

BY RAYNIQUE DUCIE, JOHANNESBURG