Salubrious Mauritius

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Congratulations to “Mission Verte” for having received the fi rst prize in the “Green corporations and environmental management” category of the Green Awards Mauritius earlier this month.

This accolade rightly recognized the organization’s indefatigable and, often, thankless work in the fi eld of sustainable waste management. Indeed, by pioneering a stupendously simple concept - the installation of sorting bins in coordination with recycling fi rms - it has sown the seeds of a slightly less insalubrious Mauritius. The question now is : what in the world are the authorities waiting for to bring “Mission Verte”’s initiative to the mainstream?

For anyone unfamiliar with its project, suffi ce it to say that the NGO has succeeded in giving impetus to selective sorting on the island with very limited funds and bundles of dedication. Eighteen selective sorting bins now pepper the island, giving many Mauritians the chance to greatly alleviate the pressure on the Mare Chicose landfi ll and do something sensible with their waste.

Understandably, it would now like the authorities, and, in particular, local government, to take over where it left off. There’s only so far one can go on the sheer good will of eight volunteers, a ball of string and a fi stful of rupees.

And “Mission Verte” is realistic about its limitations : its only means of communicating with people is via email. This is hardly conducive to getting the message across the whole population.

Also, it’s of the opinion that sorting bins won’t solve the problem in the long-term for they only touch a limited number of people. Ideally, every household should have three bins (one for plastic, another for paper and yet another for general household waste), as well as a little compost corner
in the yard.

Separating our rubbish at the source has at least three advantages: it drastically reduces the amount of waste having to be transported to and treated at Mare Chicose, it creates jobs in the recycling sector and, last but certainly not least, it sensitizes people about their consumption patterns and the waste they generate. Throw a bit of composting into the mix and you have a real shot at giving sustainable waste management a fi ghting chance.

Back to reality however. Notwithstanding the befuddling fact that government has done almost nothing to encourage selective sorting and recycling, it now has the responsibility to put its fi nancial and legislative heft behind a cleaner Mauritius. Last week, the Prime Minister said that he wants to turn Mauritius into a garden. One has to wonder what kind of garden he was referring to. A cement one? A rubbish one?

It’s undeniable that the mode of development espoused by his administration has contributed to the deterioration of our environment rather than its protection. Green spaces are being frittered away to make way for shopping centres, hotels and IRS/RES projects. As a result of inaction across the board, the island is getting dirtier by the day.

It doesn’t have to be like this. “Mission Verte” showed how far a little ingenuity and passion can go. When will government put its best foot forward? Or, more worryingly, does it even have one?

Nicholas RAINER

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