ARET KOKIN NU LAPLAZ

(vi) There is an urgent need for a “poumon vert”/ “green lung” in the South / South-East to counterbalance the heavily built up Northern and Western coasts, starting with a coastal park between Gris Gris and La Cambuse, that can be managed by the National Parks and Conservation Service, in collaboration with local land owners and with the future Conservatoire National du Littoral. A key principle will be the setting up of passageways to connect local villages. Public access to those coastal parks needs to be both guaranteed and managed at all times to ensure sustainability.

(vii) Proclaim a public space in front of hotels and campements, defined by HWM+3 metres, wherever feasible. Such a public space will be different from a public beach, to be defined after consultations with hotel and campement leaseholders (e.g. no music and no littering so as to respect people using the hotels and the campements).

(viii)In close collaboration with the Ministry of Housing & Lands, and in light of the worsening impacts of sea level rise and coastal erosion, the High Water Mark (HWM) must be reviewed.

(ix) Empower small community business operators in the coastal zones to participate in and to contribute to localised Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) plans ensuring sustainable economic development.

(x) Guarantee the democratic effectiveness of the appeal process at the Environment and Land Use Appeal Tribunal (ELAT) for civil society regarding EIA license and BLUP decisions.

(xi)  Government bodies concerned and the State Law Office to stop denying the locus standi and the right of citizens to lodge appeals against the approval of EIA licenses and BLUPs.♣

(xii) Reinstate the delay of 42 days for citizens and civil society to lodge appeals against EIA and BLUP approval decisions.

(xiii) Ensure that the ELAT is able to examine the scientific evidence and expert reports put forward by civil society, in line with the ELAT Act which states clearly that “Any proceedings of the Tribunal shall be conducted with as little formality and technicality as possible”, so that the ELAT operates in a user-friendly way for citizens to gain effective access and remedy.

As reaffirmed by a ruling in January 2018, the Privy Council, Mauritius’ topmost judicial body, has reaffirmed and removed any possible doubt as to the fact that the National Development Strategy (NDS) is the supreme, overarching planning instrument for physical development planning in Mauritius as set out in the Planning and Development Act: “Section 12 of the 2004 Act required the Minister to adopt and keep under regular review a NDS, which should “prevail over any other planning instrument to the extent of any inconsistency” (section 12(2)).”

It would be an absolute shame, totally unfitting of a modern democratic State, if such a key national tool were to be modified without civil society being able to participate and have a say.

The existing NDS contains many important provisions for the preservation of the coast and its natural ecosystems, along with the public’s right to enjoy these. The setting up of a South Coast Heritage Zone from Blue Bay to Baie du Cap is one example. Developers of hotels, smart cities and real estate projects would love to see these abolished. We hope that the revision of the NDS will not be the pretext to abolish these provisions to satisfy pressures from developers. The State has to be neutral and treat everyone – developers, civil society and citizens – on an equal and fair footing. On the contrary, with the onset of climate change and the fact that our tourism industry is no longer as attractive as before, the coastline needs to be preserved even more.

As a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), it is high time for Mauritius to stop the destruction of wetlands, tidal marshes and sand dunes on its coast which has been relentless over the past 10 years. The South Coast Heritage Zone has to be strengthened and enforced and there is need for more Heritage Zones along the coast. Wetlands, tidal marshes and sand dunes ensure that our mangroves and coral communities stay healthy, which in turn help reduce the speed of coastal erosion by buffering the impact of waves and sea level rise. The whole nexus of wetlands, sand dunes, mangroves, seagrass and corals are what UNESCO and scientists have labelled as “Blue Carbon” assets. The COP 25 in Madrid had a feature on the UNESCO-backed Blue Carbon Initiative (https://www.thebluecarboninitiative.org).

Before ending, we would like to seek a meeting with you regarding the issue of Pomponette. Your predecessor had announced in Parliament on 7 May 2019: “Madam Speaker, when this time is reached, we are going to consult the State Law Office before taking any action in the interest of this Government [sic].” He was referring to the fact that the developer had until 30 June 2019 to start construction of its proposed hotel, along with the submission of a fresh EIA license. He followed this formal statement by saying in the media a few weeks later that as soon as he would have observed that the developer had failed to abide by its obligation, he would take all necessary action. Seven months have lapsed since the 30 June 2019 deadline. The developer has neither begun construction nor obtained a fresh EIA license. Even worse, a series of media articles, both local and in South Africa, have revealed that it has never been in a financial position to honour its many financial obligations towards the State of Mauritius (payment of lease), its creditors (payment of office rental and loans), its shareholders (South Africans having invested into the companies of the Pelangi Group of which Clear Ocean Hotel & Resorts Ltd is part, thinking they were investing into the hotel project). It is manifest that a proper screening of the financial capability and experience of this developer prior to accepting its application for State land was not done properly, if at all.

We look forward to hopefully therefore meeting you personally to discuss the Pomponette issue and to participating also actively in future consultations your Ministry will be holding for the revision of the National Development Strategy.

THE END

Tuesday 18 February 2020