Mauritius is currently under an environmental emergency since the 7th of August, just two weeks after the Japanese-owned but Panamanian-flagged ship-Wakashio was heading to Brazil from China making its way across the Mauritian reef. The ship was carrying 3,800 tons of fuel oil and 200 tons of diesel on board. On July 25 the bulk carrier shipwrecked on the reef of Mauritius’s southwest coast at Pointe d’Esny, leaking about 1000 tons of fuel oil.
According to the Mauritius National Crisis Committee on Saturday afternoon -15th of August, the ship split in two. The director of Maritime Affairs- Mr. Alain Donat told local journalists that the front part of the bulk carrier would be towed and left to sink at least about 1,000 km (621 miles) off Mauritius Island. While on the other hand the rear section will be left on the breakers currently.
To be noted that Mauritius Island usually dubbed as the ‘honeymoon’ destination massively relies on its tourist industry. As per the Bank of Mauritius, the tourist industry accounted for Rs 66 billion in revenues in 2019. For sure the Covid-19 pandemic has hit hard the tourist industry of the country and with the present environmental disaster, the situation is getting really critical. Not to forget that with the 1000 tons of oil spill, some of the nature reserves are clearly at risk. Notably, Ile aux Aigrettes Nature Reserve which is home to indigenous plant and animal species such as the Olive White-eyes, Mauritius Fodies and ebony trees are in danger. There are also some mangrove reserves that have been impacted. Another crucial spot is the Blue Bay Marine Reserve which is home to about 1,700 species including 800 fishes and 17 kinds of marine mammals. Though, the key highlight of the area is the 1000-year-old brain coral (Lobophyllia sp.) which is 5 meters in diameter.
Owing to this great risk the local Mauritians and expat community have joined in hands together to save mother nature from this disaster. There are many grassroots level volunteers across the island who have helped in creating booms with collected plastic bottles and straws to stop the oil spread. Some have also donated their hair so as to help soak up the oil.