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  • A bad signal for the environment, say specialists

The Ministry of the Environment awarded a contract worth Rs 70,023,534.80 to the Sotravic/Eneotech JV consortium during an Emergency Procurement to create an empty space in Mare-Chicose. This contract is for a period of two months, from May to the end of June 2024. As International Environment Day approaches on June 5, this decision raises issues.

Issues surrounding the call for tenders and the allocation exercise

The first questions emerge at the level of the call for tenders procedure. It is the conditions surrounding this exercise, as well as the award of the contract, which are intriguing in the context of this project worth more than Rs 70 million.

Already, the simple fact that the Ministry of the Environment has decided to use Emergency Procurement raises questions. This method is generally associated with risks of favoritism and corruption. A phenomenon which has been particularly observed during the COVID-19 pandemic, where contracts awarded as part of emergency procurement have been the subject of investigations by the Independent Commission against Corruption.

Secondly, the execution of the contract officially began on May 1, 2024 and ended on June 30, 2024. The relatively short period of this contract, despite its high cost of Rs 70 million, inevitably raises concerns about the use judicious use of public funds.

Third, the very nature of the project raises other concerns. The Mare-Chicose landfill, already saturated, is continually threatened by ecological disasters, including frequent fires which represent a serious danger to the environment and the health of surrounding residents. These fires, often difficult to control, require several days of intense effort to put out.

It should also be noted that the Ministry of the Environment had initially considered a vertical expansion of the landfill. A contract worth Rs 3 billion was about to be awarded in November 2023 as part of this project which was the subject of a call for tenders.

Two companies, Sotravic Limitée and Serveng Ltd, had been pre-selected, presenting offers of Rs 3,398,481,539 and Rs 3,431,875,856.05 respectively. However, until now, the authorities have not communicated on the future of this vertical extension project.

Worrying ecological situation

In 2023, the Audit Office released a report entitled “IMPLEMENTATION OF MEASURES FOR SUSTAINABLE SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT”. This highlighted the disastrous situation of waste management policy in Mauritius, as well as the growing problem in Mare-Chicose.

According to environmental statistics, the total volume of solid waste buried at the site increased from 388,000 tonnes in 2012 to 501,000 tonnes in 2021, an increase of 30%. It is projected to reach around 650,000 tonnes by 2030, which would then represent a further increase of 30%.

Best practices in solid waste management recommend prevention as the preferred option, while landfilling is considered the last resort. In terms of costs, it was found that the total expenditure on waste management, from collection to disposal, increased to Rs 1.8 billion in 2021 from Rs 1.1 billion in 2012. In 2021 , the average cost of solid waste management was estimated at Rs 3,500 per tonne.

The situation in Mare-Chicose greatly concerns the MP of the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM), Joanna Bérenger. The latest contract awarded for the site reflects, according to her, the lack of planning and vision of this government. “This is an example of its inability or complete lack of interest to execute critically important reforms or projects so that Mauritius can address the ecological challenges it faces,” she said.

It highlights that initially, the Mare-Chicose site was designed to accommodate 2 million tons of waste over a period of 19 years. However, she points out that today, more than 10 million tonnes of waste have been buried on this site.

“In 2020 alone, we sent over 500,000 tons of waste to Mare-Chicose. In 1997, the landfill was established on an area of ​​32 hectares. Today, the site covers more than 50 hectares. Mare-Chicose has been saturated for more than three years! Now, are we talking about creating empty spaces? » says the MMM MP indignantly.

At the same time, she recalls that the government had considered a vertical extension of Mare-Chicose. “Unable to expand the site any further, they want to expand it in height. But where have we arrived? No more news ? Even though we said that a vertical extension is not without danger! Moreover, Minister Ramano himself admitted this in his response to a parliamentary question that I asked on this subject. He also stressed that this vertical expansion would allow the site to operate for another 10 years or more. »

Circular economy

The Ministry of the Environment recognized in one of its latest reports that the situation in Mare-Chicose exposes Mauritius to a “waste disposal crisis”. In order to respond to these challenges, a few years ago, it embarked on the ambitious challenge of implementing the concept of circular economy in Mauritius by 2050. With this in mind, a roadmap entitled “The vision of the roadmap is that, by 2050” has been prepared.

According to this roadmap, the concept is designed to be deeply rooted in the country's culture, promoting sustainable patterns of production and consumption at all levels of society. It aims to promote the regeneration of nature, having a positive impact on the lives of citizens and the environment, while creating green jobs and opportunities for individuals and organizations. Mauritius thus aspires to become a model for the circular economy in the region, as well as among Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

However, given that this project is long-term and the situation is pressing, several observers of the ecological situation question the effectiveness of the measures taken so far. They argue that the reports prepared and the use of consultants for the circular economy project do not constitute an adequate response to this pressing problem.

According to former MP Sunil Dowarkasing, also a former strategist for the international non-governmental organization Greenpeace, the circular economy represents much more than just a concept: it is a real way of life to adopt. He believes that no significant effort has yet been undertaken by the Mauritian authorities to raise awareness of this program among the population.

Considering that it will take between 20 and 25 years for this project to become a reality, the former MP advises the government to consider other options to relieve the country in terms of waste management. It highlights the importance of taking the technique of transforming waste into energy (waste-to-energy) seriously. With technological advances, this method is now highly effective and can be a viable solution for many countries.

“Today, thanks to technological support, there are ways to transform waste into energy efficiently,” he emphasizes. According to him, this approach is more appropriate, because the country cannot afford to have a second landfill center. He emphasizes the importance for the government to seriously consider the transformation of waste into energy, noting that in other parts of the world, such as in Paris, this technique is already implemented successfully, thus helping to relieve the management of waste. waste.

The solution to this problem, according to Joanna Bérenger, lies solely in approaches such as separation of waste at source and composting. “We are not reinventing the wheel by saying this. Moreover, some of these solutions appear in the environmental master plan,” she underlines, before adding: “But what have they done? »

The purple MP criticizes the lack of concrete action on the part of the authorities. She recalls that the construction of sorting centers and composting centers for waste was part of the “short-term objectives” of the Ministry of the Environment according to its 2019 Master Plan. “A call for proposals was launched in November 2022, and in December 2023, the minister said: 'We are starting negotiations with potential bidders regarding the installation of composting plants and also sorting centers.' They let this project sit all this time. Now they are coming back with an 'elastoplast' solution,” she protests.

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