JOHANNESBURG – An oil slick advances over the crystalline waters of the island of Mauritius, famous for its paradisiacal beaches, after an oil-laden ship ran aground and triggered what environmentalists already consider one of the worst environmental crises in the history of this African country.
“It is one of the most serious ecological disasters on the island and has occurred in the largest lagoon and one of the most beautiful in the country,” explained Mokshanand Sunil Dowarkasing, environmental advisor in Mauritius and former head of strategy at the environmental protection organization Greenpeace Africa. .
“The oil spill has already reached our coast. Where I am standing is already contaminated with fuel (…) I can say, from my experience, that this area is not going to be what it used to be. We have already killed it, It will take about a hundred years to get back to what it was, “said Dowarkasing.
The environmental disaster is registered in the southeast of the island, off the area called Pointe d’Esny, where the MV Wakashio bulk carrier remains stranded, expelling fuel in the direction of nearby beaches and lagoons.
According to Dowarkasing, the flow of fuel spillage has decreased slightly in recent hours thanks to the authorities’ efforts to empty the ship’s tanks, but the flow has not stopped yet, worsening the oil slick that is spreading over the waters.
In total, so far, the coastal area reached by the spill reaches between 15 and 20 kilometers.
The massive explosion in the port on Tuesday, August 4, completely changed the configuration of the city, as shown by satellite images taken before and after the disaster.
The MV Wakashio – Japanese-owned but registered in Panama – ran aground off the coast of Mauritius on July 25. She was sailing from China towards Brazil with a crew of about twenty people who have already been evacuated.
At the time of the accident, it was not carrying cargo, but it was carrying about 200 tons of diesel and 3,800 of oil for its own consumption, according to information from local activists.
After several days with the ship stranded, the Mauritian government confirmed on Thursday that the ship had a breach and that it was spilling its fuel load into the sea, putting nearby reefs, beaches and lagoons at serious risk.
The Department of Science and Environment in Queensland, Australia, released a video captured with a drone that shows thousands of turtles congregating on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef during nesting season.
Last night, the advance of the ecological disaster forced the Executive to declare “a state of environmental emergency.”
A few hours earlier, the Mauritian government had made an official request for help to France, one of its most important international partners and a country that has a very close territory, the neighboring island of La Reunion.
According to the Mauritian Prime Minister, Pravind Jugnauth, shared on the Twitter social network in a message to French President Emmanuel Macron, this African country “has neither the skills nor the (necessary) experience to unblock stranded ships.”
Two officers in Pennsylvania did their best to convince the huge animal to come out of the barn.
“As long as biodiversity is in danger, there will be urgency to act. France is there, alongside the Mauritian people. You can count on our support, dear Pravind Jugnauth. We are already deploying equipment and material from La Reunion,” Macron replied this Saturday in the same social network.
The inhabitants of Mauritius had sensed the threat for about two weeks, the same days that they had been sharing the horizon with the silhouette of the MV Wakashio heeled over the sea line.
The ship, according to witnesses, is only about half a kilometer from the beach.
Port of Barranquilla.
While help arrives, volunteers and neighbors on the beaches in the area are busy cleaning up and building barriers to try to contain the expansion of oil.
It is a region of coral reefs that had been rehabilitating for about fifteen years and also of great marine and terrestrial diversity, with important natural reserves a few kilometers away.
Just to the south is the Blue-Bay marine park, an area of great ecological and tourist value that has already begun to receive traces of the spill and that, if contaminated, would be a huge disaster for Mauritius.
The same is feared for the island of Aigrettes, a recently rehabilitated wildlife space that is home to endemic species of chameleon and other Mauritian reptiles and is located just a few hundred meters north of the wreck area.
But the disaster is not only natural, but also economic, in an area where hundreds of families live off tourism and fishing.
“We are not prepared to fight an ecological crisis like this on a small island,” admitted Dowarkasing.
According to this expert, the Government committed a “serious negligence” in its initial approach to the problem, since the priority was not so much to avoid a possible spill as to try to refloat the ship, although the Executive has given little information about what happened to throughout the past days.
“It is an ‘ecocide’ and, in my personal opinion, it was not acted correctly. But the damage has been done. Now, for us, (the task) is to try to recover the island to the maximum,” stressed Dowarkasing.