Mauritians Urge Government to Take Stronger Measures for Environmental Protection

Almost half of Mauritians (48%) consider pollution a “somewhat serious” or “very serious” problem in their community. o Concerns about pollution are more widespread among poor citizens (59%) and rural residents (50%) than among the well-off (38%) and urbanites (44%). o Trash disposal is most widely cited as citizens’ top local environmental issue (45%), followed by air (19%) and water (10%) pollution.

o Almost nine in 10 citizens (88%) say plastic bags are a major source of pollution in Mauritius. Mauritians assign primary responsibility for limiting pollution and keeping communities clean to ordinary citizens (50%) and the national (27%) and local (17%) governments.

Citizens are evenly divided in their assessments of the government’s efforts to protect the environment but are fairly united (82%) in saying it should do more. A majority (56%) of Mauritians say the government should regulate natural resource extraction more tightly in order to reduce its impacts on the environment.

Nestled in the southwestern Indian Ocean, Mauritius is a global biodiversity hotspot, ecologically unique and rich in species (Sujeeun & Thomas, 2022). As a small island developing state, it is also highly vulnerable to environmental shocks due to climate change, which imperil food security, livelihoods, and health; accelerate coral bleaching, marine ecosystem degradation, and biodiversity loss; and jeopardise the tourism sector (Kelman et al., 2021; Sultan, 2021; World Health Organization, 2021; Pillay, 2011; Dhoomun, Hytten, & Perry, 2022).

The government of Mauritius has dedicated considerable attention to consolidating legislation to ensure environmental protection, embracing important sectoral reforms and implementing budgetary measures. For instance, in 2021/2022, it elevated green energy to the status of a new economic pillar for the country, targeting an energy mix with 60% renewables by 2030 and commissioning major wind and solar farms (Government of Mauritius, 2021; EDB Mauritius, 2023).

The Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry (2022) last year unveiled a high-level roadmap toward a “waste plastic free Mauritius” by 2030. The government has earmarked significant resources for the National Environment and Climate Change Fund (NECCF) and for beach rehabilitation and coral-reef and preservation and has committed to launch a 1 million tree-planting programme (Government of Mauritius, 2023).

Although natural resource extraction is not a major economic activity in Mauritius, the government’s 2021 Offshore Petroleum Bill has laid the foundation for seabed exploration, raising serious concerns among environmental activists (Deena, 2021). Commercial fishing more than quadrupled between 2010 and 2020 (Statistics Mauritius, 2021).

Mauritius claims an exclusive economic zone of 2.3 million square kilometres of ocean, representing opportunities to venture into marine-based natural products such as nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals. Planners look to the “blue economy” to emerge as a pillar for a more diversified and resilient economic trajectory – but one requiring careful environmental conservation policies to be sustainable (Ministry of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping, 2020; Beejadhur et al., 2017).

This dispatch reports on special survey modules included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 questionnaire to explore Mauritians’ experiences and perceptions of pollution, environmental governance, and natural resource extraction.

Findings show that almost half of Mauritians consider pollution a serious problem in their community. Trash disposal tops the list of citizens’ most urgent local environmental problems, and most citizens say plastic bags are a major source of pollution in the country.

Mauritians are most likely to look to one another to reduce pollution and keep their communities clean, with the government following in second place. But most citizens agree that the government should do more to protect the environment, including ensuring tighter regulation of natural resource extraction.

Preesha Ramtohul Preesha Ramtohul is a senior research consultant at StraConsult Ltd., the Afrobarometer national partner in Mauritius.

Zuhayr Mustun Zuhayr Mustun is a researcher at StraConsult Ltd.

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