Blog: Saving Dodo Land
Is there a better way to mark the year of the forest and the decade of biodiversity than proclaiming Bras D'Eau as the second national park of the country? Last week the Prime Minister inaugurated the park. He revealed that he had stopped a housing project in the area to preserve the environment of Bras D'Eau.
On that occasion, the Prime Minister said that he is very concerned at felling of trees which existed by our roadsides. On a couple of occasions, he has reported those cases to the department concerned and asked for explanation. I am sure that we have all noticed the disappearance of tekoma and flamboyant trees which used to adorn our roadsides. They provided shades, flowers and some dried woods in the old days. The few remaining flamboyant trees are in full gloom and a treat to our eyes. They also remind us of the unpunished crimes committed by those who felled them.
This reminds me of the Fleurir Maurice Programme of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority under Mrs. Buckhory. Nobody these days hears about this project. Trees are being felled to give way to enlargement of roads and building of new roads throughout the country. Areas of our forest land are also diminishing. Should we be surprised at our lack of rains? I am pleased to learn that forty million rupees has been earmarked to plant trees by the new roads. I do not think it is adequate. The whole CSR fund for a year should be allocated to green Mauritius. Just imagine the benefits the whole country will derive just in a year. The whole tourism sector will undergo a drastic change. Together with sun, sand and sea, we will sell green Mauritius.
A very precious resource is our top soil. Nobody knows what we do with the top soil gathered from construction sites and from the new roads. I am aware that it is quite expensive to preserve it. But as a nation, preservation of the top soil should be part of the cost of the project. It has taken ten million years to have that thin layer of top soil. Can we afford to waste it?
An Israeli expert told the Prime Minister that fresh water is the most precious resource available in the country. The amount of fresh water per head is going to diminish year by year. In spite of the abundance of water available throughout the country, we have to tackle on a war footing, the wastage in agriculture and on a priority basis. Large amount of fresh water is still in private hands and is being used without control. The excess use in agriculture is just a waste. In the 21st century, I cannot understand how water could be in private hands. How can we envisage any development without any water supply? Is it not time to look at water rights enjoyed by the private sector? I remember in the late sixties when I was going to Israel on a fellowship, SSR advised me to go to the border of Israel. He had told me that the border of Israel stopped when greenness stopped. With hardly much fresh water, the whole of Israel is green; the Israelis have the best irrigation system. Can't we learn a thing or two from their experience? As far as I know, we still have diplomatic relations with Israel.
Government has announced another interesting project to protect our beaches from erosion. It has allocated 300 million rupees for its implementation. All those who go to the beaches must have noticed the invasion of the sea on our land. The hanging roots of trees show the continuous invasion. Preventing the erosion will also serve as a barrier against tsunamis. Most of us are not aware that we live in a tsunami zone.
Minister Satish Faugoo also revealed some disturbing facts. He said that we have lost 30% of our agriculture land in recent times. In another report, I am told that some 8,000 small planters have disappeared and some 5,000 hectares of their land have been either abandoned or converted for other use. Another byproduct of sugarcane, bagasse is being burnt to produce electricity. The cost of one ton of bagasse is Rs. 8. At first sight it is obvious that the owners of bagasse are subsidising electricity. I do not know of any product we can get at Rs. 8 a ton. I wonder whether bagasse cannot be used for other purpose, at least it could be converted into compost and return to our agriculture. Is there somebody somewhere who cares for the fate of the small planter?
Minister Faugoo had announced that government is going to have a fresh look at the loss of agricultural land. I wish him best of luck.
The success of our program to protect the environment has also given rise to some negative results. The population of dogs and birds has increased to an unmanageable level. It has been a threat to our health, tourism, security and fruits. In the present budget, adequate funding is available to catch stray dogs. Rabies and bird flu are too dangerous diseases which can be communicated to human beings by dogs and birds.
Side by side, our efforts to protect and preserve the flora and fauna, adequate control should be exercised on the population of stray dogs and birds.
The Prime Minister however committed with all the resources that he commands both from national and international organisations cannot do the job alone. Saving Dodo land cannot be his concern alone. The whole country should be behind him. Unfortunately political parties, sociocultural organisations, opinion leaders are spending all their time talking about side issues like Medpoint and MBC. It seems that real issues of life and death and development of our country are not of much concern to them. It is time for all of us to refocus on saving Dodo land.