The United Nations has granted Mauritius (USD) 9,136,212,508. to lessen the effects of accelerated coastal erosion due to climate change, but scientists have warned that money is not the sole solution with burgeoning coastal erosion already causing havoc. The funds will be used for the development of an early warning system for incoming storm surges, planting of mangroves and re-constructing public buildings at risk on stilts and development of a drainage scheme for the backshore to decrease rapidly eroding coasts.
It was revealed that the aim of the program is to increase climate change resilience amongst coastal communities and fortify their livelihoods in the coastal areas because of accelerated erosion around coast, which has reached grim levels. The money arose from the Climate Change Adaptation Programme in the Coastal Zone of Mauritius program, financially backed by the Adaptation Fund Board, set up under the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change.
Currently vulnerable coastal ecosystem communities at three priority coastal villages of Mon Choisy, Quatre Soeurs and Rivière des Galets in the south will receive the funding. “The coastal communities will be empowered to become increasingly resilient to climate change and be better prepared to protect their livelihoods. These sites need special attention, with sound adaptation policies and measures that will render them resilient and sustainable, the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Dev Virahsawmy said.
The Ministry of Environment believes that the planned coastal protection actions will directly benefit around 3 150 people whose employment, households, and families are presently endangered by coastal erosion, storm surges, tidal flooding and pollution. Although, over 300,000 individuals live in coastal communities according to government statistics.
In one of the findings in the Environmental Outlook Report 2011 by the government, coastal resources, biodiversity are already under high stress and exceedingly vulnerable to climate change, with Mauritians health and livelihoods being at huge risk. Environmental Engineer and Oceanographer Vassen Kauppaymuthoo of Delphinium Consulting expresses his dismay on the current situation of coastal zones in the country, citing that scientific evidence has been largely ignored up to date. “All these problems are known to every scientist in the world and they have been stressed to governments around the world, but a lack of planning and the power of short sighted capital extensive coastal projects including hotels with artificial beaches and marinas which did not take into consideration the threat of sea level rise and erosion.”
“Money will not solve the problems, as climate change is unchallengeable. Money will only provide money to foreign consultants who do not know the local context and who may simply put in place unaesthetic and totally ineffective measures such as the rock revetments in Grand Baie which may in fact cause even more problems in the long term,” Kauppaymuthoo said.
“We may simply consider that every structure lying below the five-metre altitude contour is at stake and will be threatened in the short to medium term of destruction by heavy erosion.”
Our ground water, which provides more than 75 per cent of pure water supply on the island, may equally be contaminated by salt-water intrusion. Our fragile coral reefs are equally at stake due to ocean acidification caused by the dissolution of carbon dioxide in the oceans creating carbonic acid.”
“Mauritius is at threat, all its coastal structures are at stake and this includes more than one hundred coastal hotels, but equally our infrastructures like the port and the airport, and the people living on the coastline,” Kauppaymuthoo adds.
According to the Institute for Environmental and Legal Studies of Mauritius, Extensive pressure is exerted on coastal zone ecosystems already. With substantial degradations already affecting coastal areas, the nation is failing to effectively tackle the issue via robust environmental policies and awareness.
Furthermore, the current intention of Government is to have 2 million tourists by 2015, it may be disbelieving that environmental considerations will be given much attention in the decision making process by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainability.
Recent UNDP (United Nations Development Program)- Climate Adaption Fund reports suggest that the evident and quantifiable effects of climate change in the coastal zone of Mauritius have become more visible over the decade, echoing escalations in the rate of adverse changes in the coastal zone due to climate change.
As to an upsurge in the number of defenceless or vulnerable locations, mainly because of accelerated tourism and pollution placing immense pressure on coastal areas. Currently 23 per cent of beaches are in rapid decline .With 21 beaches currently experiencing erosion, many with accelerated rates recently, with forecasts eluding it will raise dramatically over the next decade.
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