Tourism, agriculture, fishing, the water supply – climate change threatens the very foundations of society and the economy in Mauritius. As the Indian Ocean island nation develops its adaptation strategies, it is working to ground the next generation of citizens firmly in principles of sustainable development.
Raja Venkat, a food vendor on the sidewalk of Immigration Square in the centre of Port Louis, the Mauritian capital, sits on his tricycle with a bag full of dhal puris -
small, round, flat Indian bread stuffed with pulses -
which he sells together with tomato sauce and bean curry.
“No fighting, please. Everybody will get their fish. Give us time to empty the crates and weigh today’s catch,” Patrick Guiliano Marie, leader of the St. Pierre Fish Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society, shouts at the crowd jostling impatiently at the fish landing station in Grand Gaube, a fishing village in northern Mauritius.
Mauritius may be one of the best-prepared countries in the world when it comes to cyclones, but recent heavy rains and flooding due to climate change have brought the country’s readiness for coping with increased rainfall into question.
Residents of Albion, a small village in Pointe-aux-Caves, western Mauritius, say that by opposing the construction of a new coal power plant near their homes, they are defending their constitutional right to live.
By Kritanand Beeharry’s side are thousands of watermelon seedlings that he has grown in small pots without the use of chemical fertilisers.
As the farmer prepares his half-hectare piece of land in Soreze, near Mauritius’ capital Port-Louis, to plant the two-week-old seedlings, he takes a minute to admire his achievement. “Look at these, they look solid and better grown -- it’s the compost,” he says.
Mauritius, held up as an economic success story, is undergoing a lot of social change. However it seems the education system is not keeping pace with the rapid change as the number of teenage pregnancies is on the rise.
“Look out there, the blue one…. that is a European Union fishing vessel that is threatening our livelihood,” says Lallmamode Mohamedally, a Mauritian fisherman, as he points to a boat offloading its catch at the Les Salines port, close to the country’s capital Port Louis.
In finding a way to survive a 36 percent cut in sugar prices, Mauritian farmers are not only exporting a variety of fruit and vegetables to the European Union, but they have also begun farming in a more environmentally sustainable way.
Rani Murthy, a public officer who lives in Plaines Wilhems, central Mauritius, wakes at three every morning to wait for the water tanker from the Central Water Authority so that she can collect water for cooking and household chores.
Amateurism, high prices, mismanagement, and a limited product range have discouraged Inderjeet Rajcoomarsingh, the former chairman of the Mauritius Agricultural Cooperative Federation, from shopping at cooperative stores.
Under a new gender quota law introduced in Mauritius, at least one-third of the candidates in local elections must be women. But the adoption of a national quota is not yet on the horizon, even though just 18 percent of legislators are women and there are only two female cabinet ministers.
Mauritius plans to privatise its water sector, as rains become rare, and century-old pipes continue to leak almost 50 percent of the water available, added to waste by the population, mismanagement and over-consumption.
Mauritian men are standing up against violence against women. Nasseem Ackbarally reports that some are now joining organisations to change attitudes towards women in society.
"We have had enough of the training given to us in cooking, sewing and household works... We now have another dream: of participating actively in the development of our island at decision-making level," says Marie-Anne Laganne, a political trainer at Women In Politics.