[WILD_SEAS] ALERT MAURITIUS: Blue Bay Marine Reserve

From: wildnet (wildnet@ecoterra.net)
Date: Tue Feb 27 2001 - 08:37:18 EST


PLEASE DISTRIBUTE WIDELY! Thanks

Dear Friends,

Please read the below cited background information and realize the
utmost importance that the new Government of Mauritius is applauded for
and encouraged in its firm stand against the development of a hotel
complex affecting and endangering the marine ecosystem of the Blue Bay
Marine Reserve of Mauritius.

What YOU can do for the marine park and to help all those concerned with
the struggle against the misguided destruction, is to write a letter (-
your and every letter of your friends counts):

Please copy and paste or - even better - alter and amend the sample
letter below and send it as your letter (please provide name and state)
to the Government of Mauritius, its departments and its officials, using
the given addresses.

***************************************************************************************

Please send your e-mail to the following addresses, stating that you are
against the hotel project.

(1) Office of the President of the Republic of Mauritus
      Office of the President <statepas@intnet.mu>
Please note that a copy of your e-mail will automatically be sent
to the Institute and to ECOSUD, for reference purposes only.
Your e-mail will not be divulged to anybody.

(2) Prime Minister's Office <primeminister@intnet.mu>
(3) Ministry for Tourism <mot@intnet.mu>
(4) Ministry for the Environment <equal@bow.intnet.mu>
(5) Ministry for Fisheries <fish@intnet.mu>

SAMPLE LETTER:

Your Excellency,
Honorable Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

With great concern I/we have observed earlier/were informed about the
negative developments sourrounding the Blue Bay Marine Reserve of
Mauritius.

With great joy I/we realized the positive and proactive move by the new
government of your great country, halting a mis-development of the said
hotel-complex and stopping the works immediately. I/We applaud you for
this clear and protective stand, safeguarding the natural environment
and its intact, especially marine ecosystems of the Blue Bay of
Mauritius.

Your country was not only an outstanding positive example when it had
put serious restrictions to the way hotels could be built in order not
to destroy and alienate the local culture, picture and livestyle.

Now you show renewed commitment to stand firmly behind those of your
citizens, who like your government itself are the guardians of intact
nature. We sincerely applaud you and hope that the upcoming ruling
concerning the legal injunctions against the hotel project will be a
reaffirmation of your committment towards preserving the nature and
culture of your magnificent state.

We encourage you to cancel the leases, protect the mainland beaches and
transform the islet into a nature reserve.
This will keep Maritius on the list of countries, which can be applauded
for sound tourism-development as well as for a proactive, firm and
protective stand in nature conservation and as such promoted as a
favourable tourism destination.

Sincerely

Name
Location

****************************************************************************

AND you can even sign an on-line petition,
http://www.davidsauvage.port5.com/petition.php

Every single e-mail counts!!!

Thanks a lot for YOUR support!

ECOTERRA Intl.
Nairobi Node

-----------

Background Information:

 see also: http://www.intnet.mu/iels/bbmp.htm

Topography and Location

Situated in the South East of Mauritius, Blue Bay is enclosed by coral
reefs protecting it from oceanic waves. There is a narrow channel that
connects the bay to the open sea. On each side of the bay there is a
hotel, to the west the "Shandrani" and to the east the "Blue Lagoon"
Hotels. To the North West of the bay lies the runway of the sole airport
of Mauritius, the International Airport of Plaisance. On the Northern
part of the bay lie a Coast Guard Station, a series of bungalows and
then the public beach. Within the lagoon and atop the coral reefs lies a
delightful islet of 4.22 hectares in area, called "Ile aux Deux Cocos".

The Ancient Coral Beds of Blue Bay

At the very centre of the bay, in between the islet and the coastline,
lie ancient coral beds of great beauty and of great
biological diversity. This diversity of corals makes the site of
international importance.

At a depth of 5.5 metres, the seabed is covered with corals of which 80%
are alive. The density of corals found here make it even more valuable
and so unique. A study of the site has enabled researchers to identify
about 50 different species of corals and more than 50 different species
of fishes belonging to 25 families. The presence of Seriatopora hystrix
at the site is to be noted, for it is a rare species for Mauritius.

In spite of pressure from tourism development, uncontrolled fishing and
urbanisation, the coral beds are in good health, but there are a few
signs of stress here and there.

Rapid Urbanisation of Blue Bay

Like most coastal zones round Mauritius, Blue Bay has had its lot of
urbanisation but has suffered to a lesser extent
compared to other coastal villages like Grand Baie or Flic en Flac. Yet
over the years, urbanisation and tourism have
transformed the bay altogether. Bungalows and hotel construction have
greatly modified the visual environment, sky lanes were driven through
the lagoon and there are numerous boats speeding across the bay.
Furthermore, possible sewage seepage from nearby bungalows could impact
on lagoon health.

The Marine Park

In the seventies, consultants suggested to proclaim the bay a marine
park due to the presence of rich and diverse coral beds and the relative
ease of access to the bay. Unfortunately for the next twenty years
nothing happened whilst the bay was being rapidly urbanised. Eventually
in 1997 the Blue Bay Marine Park was proclaimed by Government
proclamation no 15 of 1997, together with the Balaclava Marine park,
proclamation no 14 of 1997. However, Government has yet to publish a
management plan for the parks, though from unofficial sources such a
plan is under preparation.

The Follies Project

In 1988, a company named Blue Bay Tokay Island Ltd was created and
obtained in 1990 from the Government of the time the lease of the islet
(All lagoon islets and offshore islands are State Lands in Mauritius and
Rodrigues). The lease imposed more than 20 special conditions on the
promoters. The project consisted of 15 bungalows. However, one of the
promoters suddenly died in 1992 and the project never got off the
ground.

Soon afterwards, another company called the "Quatre Cocos Investment
Ltd" bought off Blue Bay Tokay Island Ltd. They put forward a hotel
project that consisted of 120 rooms with swimming pool and restaurants.
In 1993, they obtained from Government a further lease for a main land
site on the so-called "Pas Geometriques". The main land site would
consist of administrative buildings and a jetty.

In 1996, the promoters did submit their Environment Impact Assessment
Report to Government. Immediately, a number of organisations such as
SPACE (Society for the Protection and Conservation of the Environment),
ACIM (Association des Consommateurs de l'Óle Maurice), MMCS (The
Mauritius Marine Conservation Society) residents and fishermen from Blue
Bay voiced out their objections to the project and did submit these to
th Government. The Ministry of Environment rejectd the EIA report and
the promoters did not get their licence. The project was on hold.

The promoters decided to go to the Environment Appeal Tribunal to have
the governmental decision over ruled. However, while the appeal is
before the courts, the promoters seeked legal advice. Their lawyers
advised them that as they already had a development permit for an
initial project in 1990, and given that the Environment Impact
Asessement Regulations were promulgated only in 1993, they would not
require an EIA licence and therefore could proceed with their initial
project of 1990.

The Government requests advice from the State Law Office and in December
1998 the latter declared that because the law has no retroactive effect,
the promoters can indeed bypass the Environment Impact Assessment
procedures! In the meantime the appeal before the Environment Appeal
Tribunal is set to be heard in January 1999.

The absurdity of this situation can be best understood when reading the
following extract from the Environment Protection Act of 1991.

" 13. Application for EIA licence

(1) Notwithstanding any licence, permit, or approval granted under any
other enactment, any person being a proponent who commences,
proceeds with, carries out, executes or conducts, or causes to commence,
proceed with, carry out, execute or conduct, an undertaking -

     (a) without an EIA licence; or
     (b) in breach of any condition of the licence,
     shall commit an offence."

Throughout 1999, non-governmental organisations and local residents
demonstrate against the project and the press carries numerous articles
on Blue Bay and Balaclava. In June 1999 the promoters announce their
intention to go ahead with the construction works and hope to be
operational by 2001. In September 1999, the promoters withdraw their
appeal from the courts. Suprisingly, the promoters do not act
immediately yet Government has accepted them bypassing the law thus
making non-governmental organisations and local residents powerless.

Due to unknown circumstances, more than a year goes by before the
promoters begin construction works and it is only in late August 2000
that they begin. By then things had begun to change.

ECOSUD and Allies enter

Meanwhile, in face of imminent threats of major construction works in
the park, the residents organises themselves and set up a non
governmental organisation called ECOSUD in August 1999. Ecosud
immediately called for a code of conduct for the Marine Park due to the
numerous boats criss-crossing the bay and causing anchor damage. To
raise public awareness of the threats faced by the marine park, ECOSUD
invited His Excellency Mr. Cassam Uteem, President of the Republic of
Mauritius to visit the coral beds of the park. He visited in November
and called for a development that respects the environment (Le
Mauricien, 15-11-1999).

But in late August and in the first week of September 2000, the
developers start digging. ECOSUD did sit-ins and tried to block works
from proceeding. Alas, with little success, the bedrock on the shoreline
where the marina is to be constructed was ripped apart, a huge trench
was dug and around 400 cubic metres of soil were removed from the
mainland and the sea bed.

Immediately, mud flowed into the park and covered coral beds out to a
distance of 80 metre. The MMCS carried out a survey of the sea bottom
nearby and collected seawater samples. The samples revealed that the pH
fell from a normal 8.0 to an acidic 6.4 and turbidity rose dramatically
with the presence of numerous bacteria. The survey also reported severe
localised destruction of the coral life. Although the promoters had
geotextile screens installed these had no effect on the movement of
sediments which reached out into the coral beds. Furthermore, the
promoters had cleared their mainland site of all vegetation and this
bare soil could at any moment be carried into the park by the heavy
rains expected soon.

However, in September 2000, general elections were held in Mauritius
with the result of a change in Government. The new alliance in power
immediately had the works stopped. Within the same period, ECOSUD went
to court to obtain an injunction so that the promoters would have to
conform to the Environment Protection Act. A representative of the State
Law Office swore in court that the promoters now had to have an EIA
licence before proceeding!

The injunction also made it clear that the initial works by the
promoters were illegal! It is worth noting that the injunction cost
ECOSUD the sum of MUR 50,000, the year 2000 equivalent of $ 2000. By
Mauritian standard, it is a large sum of money.

 The promoters abided to what the State Law Office stated and submitted
an EIA report in November. The December deadline for public comments was
extended to the 15th of January 2001. ECOSUD, the IELS, the MMCS,
Friends of the Environment, Art Jonction and a number of individuals
submitted to the Department of the Environment their objections to the
project and asked Government to cancel the lease and transform the islet
into a nature reserve.

The country now awaits the decision of the Government on the matter, and
this is where YOU can help.

Please send your letter today!
Thank you !

-------------------------------------

ECOTERRA Intl.
Nairobi Node
http://www.ecoterra.net
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