Biogenetic diversity and wildlife for posterity

GREEN DREAMS AND DODOLAND – ENERGY AND ETHICS (3)

The challenges facing us are great, but then so are the opportunities: never before have we had so much knowledge to take crucial policy decisions, with so much capacity to act.

From other salient features of The State of the Mauritian Environment document of 1991, we highlight the following: besides losing the Dodo, (unless resurrected), only 2 of our 13 native land birds are now labelled ‘common’ ; the others rank from’rare’and ‘uncommon’to ‘endangered’ (Kestrel, Pink Pigeon) and to ‘critically endangered’(Echo Parakeet) ; by 1991, Mauritius becomes the third country in the world to have the most threatened plant species (p 125). Only 34 of our endemic plants are ‘not threatened’as compared with 243 ‘threatened’ ; the corresponding fi gures for non-endemic plants are 71 ‘not threatened’and 59 ‘threatened’(p 128). We have a ‘Top 20 priority list’of the rarest native plants (from Dombeya mauritiana to Trochetia boutoniana ; p 141) the area under native vegetation decreases massively from 1773 to 1975 (p114 - illustration).
Mauritius commits itself towards preserving its biogenetic diversity and wildlife for posterity and establishes the Black River Gorges National Park, 20 nature reserves (p123) as well as other protected habitats e. g. in Round Island and Isle Aux Aigrettes. 

Mangroves and swamps, wet land ecosystems, catchment areas and coastal preservation also receive attention.
Mauritius gratefully acknowledges the assistance of friendly countries and of various UN and other benevolent agencies in helping us out with our environmental problems.

The concept of sustainable development or ‘development without destruction’, once regarded as ‘fundamentally impossible’ is for The State of the Environment in Mauritius, 1991, both ‘manageable and reconcilable’(p 274). A co-lenders meeting, Paris, January 1989 earmarked globally US$ 95 to finance specifi c environment projects, worked out by a joint World Bank–Government of Mauritius team, dealing with institutional strengthening of planning and development control, industrial development and wastes, improved use of pesticide and fertilizers in agriculture, as well as marine and terrestrial conservation (pp 25 – 26).

The earlier World Bank report ‘Economic Development with Environment Management : Strategies for Mauritius’(1987) had warned that environmental degradation was accelerating with a rapidly expanding economy. Yet a score of years later, the Environmental Performances Index for Mauritius on environmental health and ecosystems vitality rose from 58th position out of 149 in 2008 countries to 6th out of 163 countries in 2010 (Digest of Environment Statistics, Central Statistical Office, 2010 ; p 135) while our emission of Green House Gases per GDP drops by nearly one half over the period 2000 – 2009 (p62). Furthermore, over the same period, our forest area decreased from 56630 to 47160 hectares, essentially from privately owned lands (p29).
The National Environment Strategy, 2000-10, organized into 72 projects at US$ 24 million over the fi rst 5 years and with recurrent cost rising gradually to US$ 0.8 million a year, was deemed affordable, – ‘being 0.75% of the GDP’, all the more so ‘since failure to strengthen environmental management could lead to economic losses of ever US$120 million per year’.

To what extent do our laws effectively protect our flora, and fauna gene pools (including human ones) from piracy? And our policing in that respect ? (just so that we do not have, unwittingly to expensively buy-back products from those very gene pools).

It should be pointed out that towards the end of the US presidency of Bill Clinton, and based on a decade or more of empirical data, publications emerged in the US and UK and elsewhere, justifying the contention that far from being a bottomless sink of public funds, the environment constituted a major frontier region for productive investment, socio-economic growth, with a whole range of challenging, innovative jobs. Except that by 2011, tough environmental controls are being blamed for job losses in a USA gearing itself for major electoral tussles.
The Budget speech 2011 delivered in November 2010, made a plea for a giant leap forward on national productivity from Land Resources (including Productivity Enhancements, paragraphs 153 – 176) ; Marine Resources, Lakes and Rivers (including Land Based Oceanic Activities and Oceanographic Research, paragraphs 177 – 186) ; Human Resources Development, paragraph 187 – 219) ; Enhanced Business Environment, paragraphs 220 – 234 ; Strengthened Statistics, paragraphs 235 – 241) ; Physical Infrastructure – including transportation and decongestion, paragraph 24) and special emphasis on water, paragraph 260 – 280). A cleaner, greener and safer country is also proposed within an overall envelope of around MUR 27 billion worth of projects (paragraphs 281 – 330).

We should also refer to two further government publications from the Ministry of Renewable Energy and Public Utilities. The first is an ‘Outline of the Energy Policy 2007 – 2025 : Towards a coherent Energy Policy for the Development of the Energy Sector in Mauritius’. Here and now we use the latter, essentially, to mention the Maurice Ile Durable Fund created in 2008 (Rs 1.3 billion for the financial year 2008-09) so as to fi nance ‘building an attractive, modern, inclusive, green, open Mauritius (p. 18), interalia to finance schemes for the preservation of local natural resources with a view to achieving sustainable development and adapting to climate change ; and a variety of projects and programmes to protect the environment (e. g. recycling of waste, increasing reliance on renewable energy), environment sustainability, awareness campaigns, networking and research.
We deal more comprehensively with energy later. However, it is also convenient to refer here to the second document from the same Ministry (but restyled Environment and Sustainable Development as from May 2010). The latter document is entitled ‘Towards a National Policy for a Sustainable Mauritius’, a ‘Green Paper’, as at April 2011, designed to help ongoing policy processes, stimulate discussion and national consultations leading towards an eventual ‘White Paper’, which might serve as a Government-approved set of policies for a sustainable Mauritius – all of which is meant to be ‘a remarkable example of Government planning with the People’(pviii), helped by an array of facilitators, possibly ‘to serve as a model of sustainable development for the world’(pxii). Why not ? But time will tell.