Blog: MID Project - PM’s Legacy
I do not remember the Prime Minister, Dr Navin Ramgoolam, speaking so passionately on a project as he has been doing recently on the Maurice Ile Durable (MID) Project. This month itself, on three occasions, he has reiterated his commitment and his vision. First, it was on the 1st December at the opening ceremony on MID at SVICC Pailles, then last week, in an answer to a parliamentary question and finally, on his concluding speech on the budget 2011.
I was happy to learn that the Opposition has decided to subscribe to this vision. After Independence in 1968, this will be the greatest visionary project. In historical perspective, I would like to place on record that Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam was not able to rally the support of the Opposition on the issue of Independence. Forty four percent of our electorate voted against. Fortunately, all the leaders rallied after independence to ensure the development we are all benefiting from today.
Very few people had taken the Prime Minister seriously when he had announced this project soon after the general elections of July 2005 with his decision on the 6th October 2005 to put an end to the Ferney highway project against the advice of many officials and related vested interests. Today, everybody appreciates the fact that he saved us from an ecological disaster of tremendous proportion. The Prime Minister also announced that wherever he travels in his car and sees trees being felled, he telephones the Minister of Agriculture asking explanations from him and thereby asking him to stop such actions.
Recently, Minister Deva Virahsawmy drew our attention to the environmental damage being done from the burning of sugarcane during the harvest season. The ashes and the sugarcane black fly pollute not only the atmosphere but penetrate the homes of people, cover the reservoirs and damage the flora and fauna. I consider this only as a nuisance as the real damage is done to our very valuable topsoil. The layer of our topsoil is very thin and vulnerable.
In those days where the culture of burning sugar cane was not prevalent, the tops were used as fodder, the dried leaves and the unused tops remained in the inter lines and were converted after rainfall into manure. It also prevented weeds to grow. Today, we are using fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides in excess. We are not realizing the health hazards and long term harms of this excess use. For instance, our underground water storages are being poisoned. My layman’s eyes have seen the disappearance of fish and prawns from our rivers. The Mauritius Sugar Industry Research institute is an excellent platform for the government to commission a research on the damage being done year in year out to our environment due to our culture of burning of sugar canes for harvest and our excessive use of chemicals. Is it not high time to do so? At first sight, it seems that we are turning a blind eye to the hazards we are exposing both ourselves and the environment.
The Prime Minister also mentioned that government will contribute Rs 100 million over a period of five years to enable the CEB to buy electricity from a landfill gas plant from a landfill to energy project being implemented at Mare Chicose. A laudable initiative. However, I believe that it will be still better to convert all our solid waste into compost. We are a country of only 1,2 million but we generate hundreds of thousands of solid waste and spend hundreds or million of rupees for collection and transport, burn them continuously thereby polluting the atmosphere. It does not demand any high technology, only sorting out the solid waste from plastics and then making them under the correct chemical process to generate compost. It can even start at everybody’s home!
Just like the Minister of Finance has provided for a subsidy for the purchase of water tanks, just like the local authorities have distributed bins for the collection of solid waste, similarly a compost making barrel should be provided free to every home. This project could be the Voice of Youth of MID.
The best initiative being taken in the MID dream is a new initiative on the management of our water. First, all the departments dealing with water resources are converging into a single unit. Second, a vast programme of managing our waste water is being implemented. This will contribute significantly to our sustainable growth project.
The Prime Minister has quoted Albert Einstein as saying that the third world war will be over the issue of water. I would say that our quality of life and development will depend on how best we manage our use of water. God has been very kind to us with the abundance of rain and our marine economic zone as big as half as the Indian Ocean. Our hotels have already installed waste water treatment plants using the treated water for irrigation purposes and have stopped polluting the sea. The chemicals emanating from the waste water from the textile industry is more or less under control. I cannot see how we cannot dam our rivers and reservoirs and prevent more than fifty percent of water being lost from leakages in our distribution systems. In Singapore, the wastage is estimated at only 5 percent.
An excellent programme for renewable energy and energy efficiency is being implemented. The funding has come from the Rs 1,3 billion budget of the MID. It has funded a wind farm in Rodrigues and three wind farms will be soon operational at Curepipe, Plaines de Roches and Midlands.
A new mindset should be adopted, particularly for greening our buildings and providing for photo-voltaic plates to be installed for the production of energy. Sometimes, I wonder why our buildings are made to prevent natural light from coming in. Yet, the MID project should not become an excuse and a barrier for the emancipation of the people and the development of SMEs. For hundreds of years, coal and petrol will remain our main sources of energy. MID should not be used to prevent new players into the energy sector.
MID was just a dream five years ago. Prime Minster has said that to make a dream come true, you must first have the capacity to dream. MID should not just remain a dream but be an opportunity for each of us to take part in its realization passionately. MID will be Navin’s legacy of which generations to come will be proud of.