The Sugar Investment Trust (SIT) Smart City project in Le Bouchon, in the south of the country, is not unanimous. At the beginning of May, SIT and its partner, Curzon Holdings (Mauritius) Ltd, submitted their application for an EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) permit to the Ministry of the Environment for the first phase of the project, i.e. the construction of a 5-star hotel with 200 rooms on the coast. This at a cost of Rs 3.3 billion for the establishment and more than Rs 14 billion for the entire “smart city”. However, this project is the subject of disputes. Among them, that of Rezistans ek Alternativ, which filed against the project at the Ministry of the Environment at the end of last week.

The Smart City project encompasses residential, commercial and hotel components all intrinsically integrated to provide a place to work, live and relax in a serene coastal environment. There will be no offshore activity or construction on the geometric steps. The site has a facade with the Geometric Steps, mainly a sand dune colonized by vegetation and which overlooks the lagoon.

Le Bouchon Development Company Ltd, a joint venture between SIT and Curzon Holdings (Mauritius) Ltd, wants to exploit its freehold land, inherited from the Illovo Deal of the early 2000s, to build a hotel. Rezistans ek Alternativ fears that this project could represent a danger for the Grand Port Fishing Reserve which is located very close to the site. “They plan to build pipes that will allow sediments to be discharged directly into the lagoon. It risks killing life in the lagoon,” says David Sauvage, from ReA. At a time when Mauritius is increasingly at risk of flooding and torrential rains due to global warming, more protection is needed for the streams located on and around the land. “We should create buffer zones of 200 meters on both sides,” he says.

He also observes that the land is home to swamps which, in this place, prevent the irruption of sea water inland. By eliminating the swamps, this protection will no longer be able to prevent salt water from the sea from infiltrating the land and groundwater, with direct consequences for fruit and vegetable plantations in this region. This may also pose problems for the water supply for residents benefiting from these groundwater tables during periods of drought. Our interlocutor indicates: “We are in 2024, while the public consultations for this project were carried out in 2015. The last consultation took place in 2017 for a project of more than 150 acres. This is not possible and disrespectful to people. Since 2015 there has been Covid-19, the sinking of the Wakashio which affected this region, an increase in flash floods, drought and a saturation of land projects with luxury villas and others on the coast. The ecological awareness of Mauritians has grown even more.”

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