The Ministry of the Environment wishes to undertake rehabilitation work at the Souillac marine cemetery, as published in an EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) permit application it has submitted. This request will be analyzed and the permit possibly granted by…the Ministry of the Environment itself. However, around fifty professionals, personalities and citizens are speaking out strongly against this work. An official correspondence to this effect was sent to the authorities concerned this Friday.

“The Souillac marine cemetery is an emblematic site, both historical, cultural, religious and landscaped on our island and we ask that it be respected for its true value. The development project presented as part of an EIA published at the beginning of May 2024 worries us to the greatest extent,” they indicate in their letter.

If they recognize that “protection work is indeed necessary, because the current structure is crumbling, weakening the dune”, on the other hand, “the proposed additional development will have a major visual impact and will completely distort the historic marine cemetery of Souillac “.

They also express their fear: “this place of memory and history risks losing its soul and its authenticity by being bordered on the sea side by a fence and a hard jogging track, both lit by street lamps. meters. This development will remove its picturesque and natural character, thus altering the splendid view of the sea and the Telfair garden. The fence will prevent visitors from accessing the sea and will be visible from the cemetery, as well as from the opposite bank and Telfair Garden. Furthermore, the establishment of a jogging track and a promenade, usable even at night, seems totally inappropriate for this emblematic cemetery.

The collective recalls that the cemetery was created at the end of the 18th century “on a dune near the mouth of the Savanne river, near the boat station, and houses very old tombs”. “Famous figures, such as the poet Robert Edward Hart, who died in 1954, rest there, surrounded by sand and wildflowers. Epitaphs and inscriptions carved into the basalt adorn some tombs, while others display Shinto, Dravidian and Hindu styles,” they explain.

The signatories also emphasize that the cemetery is part of a complex of incredible historical wealth for Mauritius, some of which are classified as national heritage. Among them, the tomb of Baron d'Unienville located in the marine cemetery of Souillac, the Batelage, built at the end of the 18th century, the police station of Souillac which initially served, in the 18th century, as housing for slaves who worked on the sugar plantations, and the Telfair Monument and the garden of the same name on the opposite bank, with a view of the cemetery. The old Souillac station and the Nef, former coral house of the Mauritian poet Robert Edward Hart, now a museum, are located opposite the cemetery where he is buried.

They therefore ask the authorities to seek the opinion of specialists in the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, and strongly hope “that the project will be modified accordingly”.

Among the signatories, we find Gada Schaub-Condrau, committed citizen, Adi Teelock, historian and committed citizen, Priya Hein, author of Riambel (Jean Fanchette Prize), Percy Yip Tong, artistic director, Alain Gordon Gentil, editor and author, Daniella Bastien, anthropologist, Jean-Luc Mootoosamy, journalist, Dr Zeennat Aumeerally, Jean Claude de l'Estrac, writer, former minister and diplomat, Vidula Nababsing, sociologist and former parliamentarian, Raymond d'Unienville, jurist and historian.

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