To help the island of Mauritius
The coronavirus nightmare is not over yet (the island is still closed to tourists and it is suffering the pain of its effects), and on August 6 this year another tragedy occurred. What happened? The Japanese freighter MV Wakashio ran aground on 25 July on the southeast coast near the city of Mahebourg. Due to the tanker accident, at least 1,000 tons of oil flowed into the ocean. The harmful substance began to spread over a larger area, touching very important areas: the Blue Bay Marine Park, the vicinity of the Ile aux Aigrettes nature reserve, and places covered with mangrove forests.
The Blue Bay Marine Park is 353 hectares of paradise. Literally! The peaceful lagoon, clear turquoise water, and picturesque islands stole my heart right away. The stunning nature, coral Ile aux Aigrettes is, in my opinion, one of the must-see points when visiting the island. It is a place where one tries to open up the endemic flora and fauna of Mauritius, therefore it is under protection. Mangroves, on the other hand, are crucial to the coastal ecosystem. These are wetlands that provide habitats for crabs, shrimps, and young fish. Their roots hold back inland sediment and act as a barrier to the coral reef. And these are just some of the “tasks” they fulfill.
At this moment I should write that this eastern part of the island is a tropical paradise, but not anymore. Mauritius is a special island for me, not only because of the beautiful beaches with palm trees or the warm ocean. One of its secrets is the unique inhabitants of this tropical paradise, who once again deserve praise.
In the face of the tragedy, unlike the government which reacted too late, they took matters into their own hands and acted immediately to prevent further environmental damage. A quick response was crucial as the oil causes catastrophic effects on the reef and the creatures that live within it. It can take many years to recover from the pre-accident condition. How much? As long as the cleaning works are in progress, it is difficult to estimate.
Rescue operation through the eyes of a resident of the island, my close friend Alina:
The fishermen living on the east coast were the first to help. They were directly affected by the leak. There was a manual effort to clear the lagoon. In the area of sugar factories – as they have space and the necessary material, i.e. dry sugarcane leaves, we sewed long dams. They were then thrown into the water to stop the spread of the oil. Fortunately, the reed is harvested, so there was no shortage of building materials. Another action was extremely moving. Human hair is the material that perfectly absorbs oil. So the hairdressers on the island started collecting them. Then a kilogram of hair was stuffed into specially sewn covers. These little dams were designed to absorb the residual oil left on the surface. One kilogram of hair can absorb 8 liters of oil. Now seeing a person with short hair cut, it is almost certain that this is not the latest fashion cry, but a gesture of solidarity and the need for a moment. Professional help from abroad came only a few days later. Until then, the spread of the slime had been largely limited. I know people who shredded oil several hours a day and sewed long “sausages” filled with reeds. There are lots of diffrences between the Mauritians. Religion and belonging to an ethnic group is a stamp that is worn here all life. With the Wakashio disaster, barriers and differences have disappeared. There was one goal – saving the island. For a dozen or so days, we experienced a real common movement here. What I participated in still causes the tears in my eyes.
Thanks to the help of professional experts, the situation is under control. The residual oil from the lagoon continues to be removed. Work is also carried out to clean up the important roots of mangrove trees. On August 29, 2020, a gigantic demonstration took place in the capital of Port Louis against government neglect and the way in which further efforts are being made to explain the disaster.
Most of the coast remained intact and it’s still the highlight of this beautiful island. When the borders are opened, Mauritius will need tourists and their good energy as never before. I believe everything will be back to normal soon. The oil leak will remain an unpleasant memory. Residents will greet you with a huge smile at the airport and at the hotel. You will relax under a palm tree on one of the beautiful beaches with a cocktail in your hand. In the evening it will be time to admire the beautiful sunsets … I wish that too.
August 15, 2023
Over the last two years I have visited Mauritius twice and each time I had the opportunity to go on a cruise to the Blue Bay Marine Park. This special piece of the island was as beautiful as before the tragedy, so it seems that nature is reborn in this place. I hope that never again the Mauritian people have to face such problems and fight to preserve the natural beauty of their island.