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Floods, drought, reduction in forest area, loss of corals… so many problems that the country must face due to climate change.

Reduction in forested area – Vikash Tatayah: “Tree planting must be accompanied by protection measures”

Vikash TatayahThe various measures aimed at increasing the number of trees on the island are rather well received by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF). However, its conservation director, Vikash Tatayah, believes that these initiatives require some conditions to be effective.

Vikash Tatayah welcomes the initiative to increase the tree area through the Reforestation and Tree Planting Program announced in the 2024-2025 budget, which plans to increase forest cover by 100 hectares per year over the next decade .

However, he insists on three essential conditions:

  1. Use of endemic plants: “It has to be a mixture of appropriate species, endemic, native, etc.,” he says, suggesting taking a cue from Rodrigues for tree planting.
  2. Strict control of deforestation: Vikash Tatayah recalls that a preliminary report from the National Land Development Strategy of the Ministry of Lands mentions an annual loss of some 1000 hectares of forest. “In my opinion, it could be more,” he adds, emphasizing that it would be regrettable to take one step forward but two steps back. “Fode pa deforeste pu fer larout, lelvaz zanimo ou proze IRS,” he warns.
  3. Commitment of all stakeholders: Planting 100 hectares of trees each year is a colossal job that will require the collaboration of the private sector, NGOs, civil society, among others. “It’s not just about planting, but also about maintaining these trees. There are mortality rates, invasive plants, fences to put in place,” he explains, also highlighting the problem of the availability of labor to carry out these projects.

Divisions

Concerning the measure requiring subdivisions and Smart Cities of more than 5 acres to devote at least 4% of the area to the development of a mini-forest, Vikash Tatayah considers this a good start but nevertheless considers this rate insufficient. “On one hectare of development, 100 square meters of mini-forest should be planned, i.e. an area of ​​10 meters by 10 meters. In my opinion, this is not enough. It could have been double, even triple,” he estimates. He also suggests favoring endemic and native plants, which could bring added value to land put up for sale.
Finally, the measure aimed at planting trees on the banks of rivers and mountains is welcomed by the expert, but he believes that “rivulets” and canals should also be included. “We must restore river banks as well as the functions of their ecosystem. We need to plant native trees, more resistant to the effects of climate change and flooding, which firmly hold the soil in place,” he says.

However, he draws attention to dredging work being carried out at some rivers to widen or deepen them to allow a greater flow of water to flow during heavy rains. He also mentions the numerous cases of encroachment and non-compliance with the “setback” to be observed during construction near rivers. “At some point, we will have to have the courage to make a decision on these cases of encroachment,” he concludes.


Coral replanting – Sébastien Sauvage: “Cosmetic measures”

Sébastien SauvageIt is crucial to make efforts to restore our shorelines and rehabilitate degraded ecosystems. However, the proposed actions, if they do not take into account the systemic nature of the current environmental emergency, risk turning out to be temporary solutions, “Band-Aids” on a much deeper problem. The degradation of our island's marine and coastal ecosystems (corals, seagrass beds, sand dunes, mangroves, wetlands) is primarily due to human activities! With a policy that promotes the excessive artificialization of Mauritian soils through the implementation of “gated” urbanization projects, luxury villas, land and agriculture doped with all kinds of products harmful to the health of our compatriots and biodiversity in general, claiming restoration action is derisory. How can we welcome the government's proposal which would allow hoteliers, or any other actor, to be able to extract sand from our lagoons to protect themselves from rising water levels which are inevitable in the face of climate change! The projections presented by the Ministry of the Environment during the consultations for Adapt'Action Phase II in June 2023 are clear in the face of this problem. They indicate that “beaches could disappear slowly (50 million USD loss in added value by 2050)” and that “sea level could rise up to 1 meter by 2100 + risk of surges”. Sand extraction to protect hotel beaches will only aggravate an already dangerous situation! The continued impact on the lagoons, already weakened by human activities, could lead to irreversible damage to these ecosystems and their biodiversity. Thus, coral replanting initiatives will remain cosmetic measures if they are not accompanied by real efforts to reduce the pressure of anthropogenic activities. Effective restoration of marine and coastal ecosystems involves the regeneration of mangroves, wetlands, protection of natural habitats across the island as well as the creation of artificial reefs to stabilize sediments and protect coastlines from erosion. It is worrying to note that the government's proposals do not include strategies for debituming and removal of the coastline.

However, these actions are essential to dedensify urban spaces, thus promoting biodiversity and the infiltration of rainwater. They are also crucial for adapting to the effects of climate change and sustainably protecting coastal areas.


Flood and drought – Farook Mowlabucus: “Nothing extraordinary, except the drain projects”

Farook MowlabucusApart from the Rs 1 billion allocated in the financial year 2024-2025 for the construction of drains, there is nothing extraordinary in terms of measures to address climate challenges. This is the opinion of hydrologist Farook Mowlabucus.

Faced with the multiplication of episodes of “flash floods” and torrential rains in recent years, causing sometimes fatal floods, Farook Mowlabucus believes that the construction of drains is a necessity. However, he emphasizes that these drains should be sized to cope with the increasing amount of rain due to climate change, which leads to increasingly frequent torrential rains. “The Land Drainage Authority must work closely with the weather station to obtain the necessary information, allowing engineers to design drains of the correct dimensions. You shouldn’t build drains just for the sake of building them,” he says.

Regarding the problem of water availability due to periods of drought, Farook Mowlabucus welcomes the measure aimed at injecting Rs 930 million in order to start the long-awaited work on the Rivière des Anguilles dam. “It's good that this project is no longer just on paper,” says the hydrologist. According to him, this project will be a breath of fresh air for the inhabitants of the south in terms of water supply. That said, our interlocutor recommends that work to replace obsolete pipes be done in parallel in order to reduce the loss of water in the Central Water Authority networks, which is around 60% in places. “We also need to extend the network where necessary,” he suggests.

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