The 2024-25 Budget, presented by Finance Minister Renganaden Padayachy, is criticized for its lack of bold action on climate change. Although several initiatives have been announced, experts believe that they are not enough to mitigate climate impacts. Experts deplore the absence of a clear and coherent action plan.

Climate change is a global problem that all countries experience in one way or another. Although it is already too late to try to prevent it, there are nevertheless measures to mitigate it. “Our actions today must be bold and effective,” declared Finance Minister Renganaden Padayachy during the presentation of the 2024-25 Budget on June 7. Several measures were listed.

Vassen Kauppaymuthoo

But many of the experts interviewed do not find them as daring as that. “An action plan is necessary and work must be done on all fronts now,” they make it clear. Vassen Kauppaymuthoo, oceanographer and environmental engineer, emphasizes the importance of having a global vision of the consequences of climate change. It highlights that each expert gives their point of view, but it will not be the whole picture.

“We must see the consequences of climate change from several angles: from a scientific, social, economic or environmental point of view,” he recommends. He explains that the world we live in has entered into instability, is changing rapidly and requires adaptation at all levels. “Our habits are changing and nothing will ever be the same again,” he warns.

Karim Jaufeerally, a fellow at the Institute for Environmental Studies, notes that climate change is a very complex dynamic. “It is very difficult to anticipate precisely what the consequences will be, because Mauritius is a small territory. The mathematical models used to model these changes are sometimes hazardous to apply on small scales,” he says.

However, he maintains that we can imagine that with climate change, we risk experiencing more extreme climatic conditions, that is to say more periods of drought, rain, rising water levels, powerful cyclones and of infectious diseases. “With a rise in temperatures, we should expect more heat waves and impacts on both human and animal health,” he believes.

Integrated battle

Suresh Boodhoo

Suresh Boodhoo, former director of meteorological services, confirms that climate change will affect people's lives and property. “Every year, we will have flash floods not only during the passage of a cyclone, but at any time of the year. These calamities will continue if we do not take action now. We cannot wait until tomorrow or the day after tomorrow,” he said.

The former director of meteorological services deplores that it is too late to take stock of the situation. The time, according to him, is for the implementation of concrete measures, particularly in the most affected regions when it rains heavily. “We need to tackle the problem upstream and re-establish stormwater infrastructure where it has been blocked or demolished,” suggests Suresh Boodhoo.

Faced with the numerous impacts of climate change, the effects of which are already being felt, Vassen Kauppaymuthoo indicates that the first battle against this phenomenon must be fought in people's minds. “This battle must be fought in an integrated manner. You can't just install drains. Everyone needs to participate actively and truly be convinced that what we are doing is correct,” he says.

Which is not really the case, according to him. He believes that economic interests tend to take over. He takes the example of the announcement of sand extraction in the lagoon. “We know that it is a farce and that it will increase erosion, but this proposal was still included in the Budget,” he said.

” Beautiful lyrics ”

The oceanographer adds that the fine words give the impression that actions will be taken against climate change and that organizations will be asked to finance the projects. “These actions must be integrated, because we cannot, on the one hand, create a fund for climate change and on the other, build on the slopes of the mountains or extract sand from the lagoon. There is a fundamental contradiction which means that the credibility of the approach to climate change is undermined. There is a lack of consistency,” he says.

Karim Jaufeerally

Vassen Kauppaymuthoo therefore considers that there is a lack of real commitments with very strong measures. “It’s not enough to have the means. We also need an action plan,” he maintains. However, he continues, it turns out that the proposed plan is not clear.

This is also what Suresh Boodhoo notes. “The measures set out are not sufficient. Taxes may be a start, but not enough. I don’t see an action plan for where to start,” he adds.

Green Belts

Karim Jaufeerally points out that the proposed measures, such as the approach of planting trees in coastal areas, for example, to combat erosion, are interesting. But he points out that the Ministry of the Environment has been involved in such projects for several years already. This idea is therefore not new to him.

With climate change which will bring more cyclones and more rain, or even less rain with long periods of drought, he recommends green belts. This involves leaving the coastal area free of any construction and reforesting it. “In Mauritius, we have the Geometric Steps inland. Instead of building there, we must replant where possible and make the minimum of interventions to preserve the integrity of these geometric steps,” he explains.

While the budgetary measures mention reforestation of land and the rehabilitation of coastal zones, Vassen Kauppaymuthoo, for his part, proposes “nature-based solutions”, such as seagrass or corals. “Nature is our ally. It is inexpensive and planting allows the absorption of carbon dioxide, reduces the temperature and produces fruit. Likewise, seagrass beds help dissipate ocean energy and produce sand. They are the ones who need to be protected, not put up walls,” he explains.

Suresh Boodhoo adds that what the country needs is massive reforestation. “We have lost a lot of forests. If there is heavy rain, the land will be washed away and cause landslides,” he says. He adds that it is urgent to protect coastal areas at risk.

During the presentation of the 2024-25 Budget, the Minister of Finance notably announced the introduction of a Reforestation and Tree Plantation Program across the island, the objective of which is to increase tree cover by 100 hectares per year. over the next decade. The government also plans to mobilize some Rs 300 billion for an adaptation and mitigation program to deal with extreme weather conditions.

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