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An Analysis of the Causes Triggering Environmental Decline in Mauritius


Chapter 1: Introduction

  1. Introduction

“The Supreme reality of our time is the vulnerability of our Planet”. This saying by John Fitzgerald Kennedy is still relevant today. Indeed, the environment has swelled importance since the past decades. Studies reveal that the deterioration of the environment is occurring at an alarming rate. In fact, the High Level Threat Panel of the United Nations has enlisted it as one of the ten threats for humans. The green tilt is felt across the world including Mauritius, is no exception.

In response to the global energy crisis in 2007, The Mauritian Government announced the Maurice Ile Durable (MID) concept, as being the new long term vision for making Mauritius a sustainable island. The PM quoted that “Maurice Ile Durable (MID) is essentially a vision that seeks to transform the environmental, economic and social landscape of our country. It belongs to each and every one of us. MID seeks to build up capital, not only for our generation but for generations to come. The MID vision is embedded in a strategic framework embracing five development pillars, namely Education, Environment, Energy, Employment and Equity.”

However, there are many environmental issues which are still lingering.

1.1 Background to the problem

The environmental decline presents an unprecedented challenge to Mauritians. The main causes triggering environmental decline in our island are:

  1. Air Pollution
  2. Noise Pollution
  3. Water Pollution
  4. Increase in population
  5. Development Process
  6. Natural Causes

Air Pollution

  • Emissions from vehicles and industries

In Mauritius, sustained economic development and changes in production patterns have contributed to the release of pollutants in the atmosphere, thereby adversely affecting air quality. The major contributors to local air pollution are emissions from industrial activities and vehicles.

According to the Mauritius Statistics Bureau, continuous economic growth and higher standard of living have led to a rapid increase in transport services over the recent years. A number of environmental problems is associated with transport, especially emission of carbon dioxide and other pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds, sulphur dioxide and particulate matter. In 2012, carbon dioxide emission from the transport sector stood at 954 thousand tones compared to 922 in 2011, up by 3.5% due to higher fuel consumption by that sector. It is to be noted that the number of registered motor vehicles went up by 5.2% from 400,919 in 2011 to 421,926 in 2012.

Mauritius’s economy relies mostly on the textile industries for exportation and thus more industries mean more pollution. Indeed, with the industrial revolution more industries and factories were set up. Consequently, air pollution has taken toll on the health of people. Moreover, the emissions from industries contain noxious gases such as carbon dioxide, sulphur and nitrogen. These gases, when present in elevated levels in the atmosphere, often result in various environmental and health hazards and various skin disorders in individuals.

  • Cane burning prior harvesting

The practice of burning sugar cane before harvesting, in Mauritius and elsewhere in the sub-region, causes severe air pollution, though often localized. Cane burning releases fly ash, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane and volatile organic compounds. Pollutants such as these can have an impact on the respiratory system and can affect the quality of air, land and water.

Noise Pollution

Noise is most often defined as unwanted sound. Noise is usually measured in decibels (dB)

and is generated mostly in high-density urban areas. The World Health Organization highlighted that elevated levels of noise can lead to hearing impairment, annoyance, and sleep disturbance. Changes in the immune system and birth defects have been attributed to noise exposure.

  • Vehicles

Port Louis, being the commercial hub of the island is more vulnerable to noise pollution. Indeed, thousands of vehicles converge to the capital on a daily basis, giving rise to road congestion. Traffic noise is probably the most pervasive type of noise pollution. This alarming increase in decibels is actually related to the degradation of the environment

  • Construction Activities

Construction and demolition works are usually noisy and frequently. Although the works may not last long, the disturbance caused may lead to problems for people who live and work near the site.New roads are being constructed which signify that more road drilling is taking place.

Water pollution

Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our children's lifetime (Luna Leopold). However, nowadays water pollution is a major global predicament. Water pollution occurs due to the discharge of municipal sewage both domestic and industrial without any treatment which brings considerable changes in the water quality in addition to many religious activities became a threat to the ecosystem.

  • Religious and Cultural practices

Nowadays religious practices like idol immersion during certain festivals are a major source of water pollution in the water bodies across Mauritius. During festivals like Ganesh Chaturti the Hindu community immerses idols in nearby rivers or seas. However, this practice has a direct repercussion on our environment. In fact, the idols are made up of clay, plaster of paris, adhesive materials and synthetic paints. The chemical paints used to decorate the idols contain heavy metals such as Chromium, Lead, Cadmium and Mercury. Consequently, this increases heavy metal concentration and acidity in the water. Moreover, the floating materials released through idols in rivers and seas after decomposition result in the depletion of oxygen. Thus, it can be stated that idol immersion is a religious activity which is responsible for adding pollution load in the water bodies.

Likewise, after certain prayers the Hindus dispose religious materials such as flour dough, lamps, color powders, garlands, incense sticks, and fruits into rivers or lakes which further worsen the health of rivers.

In addition, the practice of depositing human ashes after the burial also poses a serious threat to the ecosystem. This cultural practice entails environmental implication. However, according to spiritual researches conducted, scattering the urns of ashes in rivers helps dead ones the afterlife or remove obstructions their onward journey. Hence, it can be concluded that such practices are to the detriment of the environment.

Increase in Population

An increase in population makes excessive demands on natural resources, and increases the demand on agriculture and livestock. As the environmental condition declines so does the condition of all living things. According to the Mauritius Statistics Bureau at end of the year 2013, the population of Mauritius stood at 1,259,838. With a fast- growing population, resources such as water, productive agricultural lands and ocean fisheries are excessively dwelled on.

Dumping of solid waste in rivers, discharge of domestic and industrial effluents and run off from agricultural fields are sources of freshwater pollution in Mauritius. Presently, only 29% of the population is connected to the sewerage network

Natural Causes

Natural disasters create substantial environmental degradation and ecological imbalance. Indeed, Tsunamis, flash floods, torrential rainfall and cyclones can completely decimate local plant and animal communities to the point where they can no longer function. Natural disasters are inevitable cannot hold back nature from occasionally unleashing its powerful forces. However, human actions that cause environmental degradation are worsening the devastation wrought by nature.

1.2 Significance of the study

Environmental decline has brought a paradigm shift in the lives of Mauritians.

This study will analyze the diverse reasons due to which the environment is undergoing a drastic change. Furthermore, there will be an evaluation on repercussions of environmental decline on public health and the ecosystems.

Environmental education programmes often aim to:

1. Help students develop knowledge about the natural environment, particularly with regard

to how ecosystems work and human impacts on the natural environment.

2. Foster more positive perceptions about the value of the natural world.

3. Develop eco-friendly habits, such as getting people to recycle and to produce less waste.

4. Engage students in environmental projects and action.

1.3 Aims of the study

The aim of this study is to identify the causes giving rise to environmental decline. Eventually, this has direct repercussions on the health of Mauritian people. It is thus primordial to explore the measures being taken at different levels to counteract this nationwide predicament.

1.4 Objectives of the study


  • identify the causes triggering environmental decline in Mauritius
  • explore the major repercussions of environmental degradation in Mauritius.
  • identify the measures being taken to avert the environmental decline.

1.5 Problem Statement

Environmental decline has emerged as a leading concern. However, there is a lack of readiness and commitment of one and all to move towards greater management of the environment for sustainable development. According to the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, observed impacts of environmental decline in Mauritius between 1998 & 2007, sea level rose by 2.1mm per year. In addition, researches have concluded that there has been an increase in the annual number of hot days and warm nights. Flash floods in 2008 and 2013 resulting in loss of lives are concrete examples of theenvironmental deterioration. Thus, it becomes imperative to act on both individual and national level.

1.6. Research Questions

1. What are the causes of environmental decline in Mauritius?

2. What are the direct and indirect consequences of environmental decline?

3. How is the environmental degradation affecting health?

4. What should be done to avert environmental decline?

1.7 Assumptions of the study

Though there is public awareness on environmental decline, there is no paradigm shift in the way they maintain their surroundings.

1.8 Format of the study

This study consists of the following chapters:

  • Chapter 1 consists of the introduction which gives the reader an idea of the topic. Moreover, chapter 1 comprises the background to the problem, significance of the study, aims and objectives of the study, problem statement, research questions and assumptions related to causes triggering environmental decline in Mauritius.
  • Chapter 2 will lay emphasis on what authors or theorists said about the environmental decline. Eventually, comparing and contrasting of their ideas and theories will be reviewed.
  • Chapter 3 will deal with the research design and the methodology used for this study. Moreover, this chapter will give an idea how the research study has been used to analyse and interpret data that will be gathered.
  • Chapter 4 will be focused on the research findings. The analysis and findings of the study will be interpreted. In other words, the chapter 4 will give justify the findings.
  • Chapter 5 will provide the opportunity to evaluate the usefulness of the research topic. Besides, it will also draw attention to the recommendations based on the findings.

1.9 Conclusion

The continuously accelerated and unabated environmental degradation in the country is dangerous for people’s health and livelihoods, the survival of species, and ecosystem services that are the foundation for long-term economic development.

To conclude, it can be said that chapter 1, has shed light on the causes stimulating environmental decline and how its ramifications are detrimental. Therefore, the next chapter will analyse and synthesise authors’ views in relation to this research topic.

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