Environment in Mauritius Essay

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Since obtaining independence from the British in 1968 after more than four centuries of colonial rule by a succession of counties, the island of Mauritius established itself as one of the most stable and prosperous countries in Africa. With a per capita income of $13,200, Mauritius is the 72nd richest nation in the world. The economy is diversified, and the industrial, financial, and tourist sectors are expanding. With more than 9,000 offshore entities, investments in the banking sector have passed the $1 billion mark. Even though arable land (49.02 percent) and fish are the island’s only natural resources, only 14 percent of the workforce are engaged in these industries.

As the island has flourished economically, the standard of living has risen for most Mauritians. All of the people have sustained access to safe drinking water, and 99 percent have access to improved sanitation.

There has been some concern in recent years that the standard of living has decreased in the Creole community because of a slowed economy resulting from adverse weather conditions and a drop in sugar prices. Among the population of 1,240,827, this economic slowdown has also produced an unemployment rate of 10.5 percent and a poverty rate of 10 percent. The United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Reports rank Mauritius 65th in the world in overall quality of life issues.

Surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Southern African nation of Mauritius has a coastline of 177 kilometers, encompassing the Agalega Islands, Cargados Carajos Shoals (Saint Brandon), and Rodrigues. The islands are comprised of a small coastal plain that gives way to discontinuous mountains around a central plateau. Elevations range from sea level to 828 meters at Mont Piton. The tropical climate of Mauritius is moderated by southeasterly trade winds. From May to November, winter temperatures are warm and dry, while the summer months from November to May are hot, wet, and humid. Cyclones occur every 15 years or so between November and April. The abundant reefs around the islands may present maritime hazards.

The waters surrounding the islands have become polluted, and coral reefs have begun to deteriorate. Around eight percent of the total land area is forested, and deforestation is occurring at a rate of 0.6 percent each year. Mauritius is not a land of great biodiversity, but three species of mammals are endangered. The nine species of endangered birds include the Mauritius kestrel, which was once identified as the rarest bird on the planet, and the still extremely rare echo parrot. The government has created a system of national and marine parks and protected other marine areas from further environmental damage. The Black River Gorges National Park is the largest nature reserve.

In 1989, the government of Mauritius created the Ministry of the Environment and the Department of Environment and charged them with implementing and enforcing environmental laws and regulations. Environmental policy was subsequently laid out in two National Environmental Action Plans that emphasized sustainable development by promoting the strengthening of existing institutions and improving management methods of land, marine, and coastal resources, water resources, and biodiversity. As industry has grown in Mauritius, there has been a greater demand for facilities to deal with expanded solid waste as well as basic sanitation and sewage. As a result, in 2000 the government instituted the National Solid Waste Management Strategy, and new regulations for handling hazardous waste were enacted the following year. A number of initiatives have been established to deal with the search for alternate energy sources and to minimize the impact of tourism on the environment.

Mauritius participates in the following international agreements on the environment: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, and Wetlands.

Bibliography:

  1. Timothy Doyle, A Global Environmental Movements in Minority and Majority Worlds Perspective (Rutgers University Press, 2005);
  2. Kevin Hillstrom and Laurie Collier Hillstrom, Africa and the Middle East: A Continental Overview of Environmental Issues (ABC-CLIO, 2003);
  3. Valentine Udoh James, Africa’s Ecology: Sustaining the Biological and Environmental Diversity of a Continent (McFarland, 1993).

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