Is Mauritius going to experience a major ecological disaster? This is what the inhabitants of this territory located in the Indian Ocean fear, since the announcement Thursday, August 6 by the local authorities of a major oil spill in neighboring waters.
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This leak comes from a bulk carrier stranded on a reef since July 25 on the southeast coast of the island. A black flow escaping from the ship could be observed this Friday, after it had started to sag on the stern and take on water. The boat, owned by a Japanese shipowner but flying the Panamanian flag, was traveling empty but was carrying 200 tons of diesel and 3,800 tons of heavy oil, according to the local press. Its crew was evacuated. It was stranded on Esny Point, a Ramsar classified wetland, like the nearby Blue Bay Marine Park and also threatened. These two sites were protected by anti-pollution systems, the ministry said.
" Crisis situation "
" We are in a crisis situation ," Kavy Ramano, the Mauritian Minister of the Environment, said in the media on Friday. Mauritius' environment ministry asked the public in a statement not to venture onto the beaches and surrounding lagoons. “This is the first time that we have faced such a disaster and we are not sufficiently equipped to deal with this problem,” added Fisheries Minister Sudheer Maudhoo.
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Mauritius has already requested the support of South Africa, one of its closest neighbors, and of France to have the Polmar intervention plan. The latter is triggered in the event of accidental marine pollution.
" Reunion is not immune to pollution, " commented in a statement the deputy of neighboring Reunion Jean-Hugues Ratenon. “ The ecosystem of the Mauritian lagoon will suffer considerable damage, according to specialists and environmental protection associations. (...) Alongside the French State, the Mauritius State and associations, the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) must immediately mobilize and lend a hand. All means, and they exist, must be implemented to avoid ecological disaster ”.
According to Island ministers, all attempts to stabilize the ship have failed due to poor conditions at sea. Efforts to pump the oil have also so far proved unsuccessful. Environmentalists fear the boat will eventually break, which could lead to an even larger oil spill and colossal damage at sea and on the coastline. The Premier of the Island, Pravind Jugnauth, was in any case worried about a worsening of the situation. " The risk of a second crack cannot be ruled out," he told local media.
Since Thursday evening, the authorities and volunteers of environmental NGOs have been working on the installation of anti-pollution floating barriers made of cane straw around the ship, reports L'Express de Maurice . According to the local media Defi Média, " the heavy oil has spread on the sand, the rocks "
Very popular for its lagoons and paradisiacal beaches, Mauritius is a hotbed of international tourism.