The ongoing hurly burly around the energetic options for our country is raging… Unfortunately, and this is Mauritius, the debate has been dragged off track. More precisely off grid approaching hysteria both from the pros and against. Argumentations skidding from the path of rationality into the gutter of sheer insanity, indeed and in deeds… It is about time that some be brought back to reason… At least for the sake of trying to reinstate an ethos of respectful dialogue, even debate far from acrimony and mainly hidden agendas… The latter may dangerously entrench our whole society far from the real issues concerns in view of our future as a nation of responsible citizens. What follows is a humble attempt in the form of a contribution. A call to gain back our senses… So please bear with me.
It is an agreed fact that so as to ensure a sustainable growth and development for our country, hopefully, we have already evaluated our needs in energy to fuel the economy and also meet domestic needs for the betterment of our respective activities and livelihoods.
It is also an avered fact that awareness around eco sustainability (ecological and economical - the prefix being the same sets the scene of this paper) is increasingly embedded in the minds of all stakeholders with a view to mitigate as far as possible the environmental impacts of any development strategies and projects thereafter. Civil society activism has legitimately gathered momentum during the last decades around the globe. Mauritius is fortunately not an exception to this planetary trend. The latter being now an acute question of future sustainability of the planet of which we are but tenants with a limited life span, but having yet an obligation to render the ecological heritage we received from our forefathers and mothers in at least the same state we received, to our children and grand and great grand children thereafter.
Ethno-political winging and imputed motives
During the past months, years and recently weeks we have witnessed and become hostages of entrenched feud where the ethno political winging and imputed motives have slowly but reached the surface like our sewer cum waste water drains' manholes after heavy rains...
The latest outcry from both acrimonious crystallized around the CT Power Coal Generation Power Plant to be set up in Albion - Quasi immediately the motions of no confidence were stirred along the lines of non rational argumentations. The Procedures leading to the delivery of the EIA Licence have been followed, contested, granted, contested again during a span of time of more than 7 years...
Finally the opposition in the form of a Plateforme citoyenne engaged and supported Jeff Lingaya who went on a hunger strike, one of his numerous as a matter of fact. Not that the initial ideal is controversial per se, but as goes the saying “à force de crier au loup...” the pomme d'amour syndrome alike. The support gathered momentum as the health of Lingaya ailed. Finally the authorities gave way in setting up rather hastily and mixing up precipitation and commendable alacrity) a National Energy Commission whose mandate and terms of reference, nature (mandatory or advisory) tend to lead to an abyssal state of scepticism. Will it be a commission of enquiry, an ad hoc body, an EIA appeals of appeals tribunal - you name it...
All this triggers an effortless sense of à peu près the least one could say... not to mention the déjà vu feeling that inevitably tends to reaffirm itself in the form of insoutenable légèreté de l'être of our administrative and political establishment asparagons of incapability to take long term and explicitly stated long shot decisions and stick to them. Illustrations are not scarce : The musical chair attitude adopted by them all alike.
A model of above board discussions
Let us recall that in 1998 one Navin Ramgoolam was then the very proud Prime minister of the Republic of Mauritius giving his blessings to the first IPP contract between the CEB and Centrale Thermique de Belle Vue - hear hear Mr Patrick Assirvaden. A few years later the Ganoo-Jugnauth-Bérenger triumvirat's attempted 180-degree U-Turn on the Bagasse Efficiency issue, rendering it quasi inevitable to opt away from coal for the Saint Aubin Plant. A project which by the way was certainly a model of above board discussions at all levels leading to an IPP contract. Bérenger and the GM of SIT Jyoti Jeetun attended and delivered speeches on the occasion of the official inauguration. The rest is now history...
Same as the “vye feray” mantras systematically used by some then driven by the “main invisible de l'histoire” after the setting up of the Sugar Investment Trust, SIT initiated by Anerood Jugnauth and Rama Sithanen then in tandem... Needless to point out that the same SIT and some other government bodies have a stake in all IPP companies.
Should we also mention the sea serpent : restructuring of the electricity sector with the long awaited institutionalised separation between producer, distributor and regulatory body. Maybe should we dig into Mare Chicose cells to find some remnants of this then well elaborated strategy... In an attempt flee from the Sodium dioxide fumes which have been emanating from Saint Georges and Saint Louis power plants for decades now certainly fostering healthy life environments to their respective neighbourhoods.
On the front of the renewable sources, how much talking has been going on the wind farms in the north, Bigara and Britannia : Anne ma soeur Anne, ne vois-tu rien venir..., not to mention the enlightening scam on the economic bulbs at the level of... CEB the return of the Jedi !
What have we been hearing and reading those days the same stirring the ethno communal winging claiming that their common front “will be taking actions”... Those shouting and rightly so after NMU's disrespectful heritage positioning themselves as anachronic heirs and through the time tunnel being as reactionary as the object of the despicable pen name and his followers.
Back on memory lane we are legitimately dubious afore the eloquent silence of all those opponents of the Gamma Coventa Waste to Energy Plant - which was to be set up in La Chaumière, yet again nearby Albion when we read nearly every week that non controlled medical waste incineration is causing havoc and public health concerns in their respective neighbourhoods.... The acrimony and resources in the contesting of this WTE project speaks for the vested interests which were at stake and some just cannot resist being irreducible Janissaries...
“Black or white coal” v/s “Rassembleur”
And the Prime minister at the foot of Le Morne World Heritage haranguing and devising inter alia on “black or white coal” on the auspicious occasion of the commemoration of the abolition of slavery : What has become of your bedside manners Doctor... ? And where are your precepts of the “rassembleur” of our country giving way to such grass root demagogy at the foot of the national and natural cradle of all our successive liberations : Alas it appears that the emancipation of some sick minds is yet to occur be the appraisal and diagnosis of their statements and/or understatements... A mindset which certainly characterises both sides waging intellectual “intimidation” and appealing some basic instincts over the energy issue letting aside the fundamentals of this matter of upmost national concern and importance for our common future.
The central question remains do we need or not more power sources ! Should we or not be in presence of a balanced Energy Mix to ensure the sustainable development of our country encompassing all aspects : Irremediably the answer is YES... Supplementary questions are about : Which sources, how, with which technology, expertise mitigating measures and how much : We will all agree that we should not be in an Amish island, neither should we put at stake public health matters.
If any promoter comes up with solutions, all what we have to ensure as citizens of this country and all we should ask and this applies to CT Power (likewise all others) : 1. A commitment to set up a power production facility within the terms and conditions of its EIA licence ; 2. Stress on the fact that the project is in line with the sustainable development needs of the Country and that as far as all promoters are concerned no other consideration should prevail (be it in favour or in opposition to the project) ; 3. The promoters should state that they are confident and ascertain to meet expectations entrusted to them by the relevant and competent authorities. ; 4. and finally request as a prerequisite to legitimate public debate opponents and autoproclaimed « wellwishers » to be willing to engage bona fide discussions : Only then will we be back on the grid of common sense and LIGHT there shall be without prejudice.
Antananarivo, February 8, 2013
* To be in line with my professional and personal ethics, I hereby disclose that I have been actively engaged for consultancy assignments with numerous actors of the energy sector in Mauritius and abroad.