Mauritius is a Tropical island of about 1860 sq Kilometres in area situated some 800 Km off the South East of Madagascar. Completely surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the small island barely 60km lengthwise and 40km across has a coastline of some 200km.
The island is mainly a large coastal plain rapidly rising to high plains and the central plateau with altitude of over 600metres above sea level.
The coastline varies in terrain quality all around the island, from marsh land to swamps, from muddy soil to bright sandy beach. But the whole island is at risk from the inevitable sea rising catastrophe.
The coastline is home to numerous hotels and tourists attractions and residence of many fishermen. It’s also the site of the population’s favourite outing: the seaside.
While the coastline area might be less than 10% of the total area, it generates over 11% of Mauritius’s GDP through tourism. (Note 1)
Erosion and rising sea level.
Studies have shown that sea levels have risen by .18m in the last century. Continued increase in sea level due to climatic change combined with beach erosion because of cyclones and hotel walls are causing untold damage to the beaches. Over 1,000 Hectares of coastline are in immediate irreparable danger within 30 years. 1,200 houses, 6,000 persons, farmers, agricultures are all at risk.
Timeline and actions.
The Mauritian Government is well aware of the danger facing the island because of the rising sea level. Studies and observations are constantly being done and major works have been done to neutralise the effect of beach erosion in various places. Porous constructions, called gabions, at different locations have brought encouraging results. (Note 3)
The use of sand, which amounted to some 800 000 tons yearly, is now hardly used in the construction industry in favour of rock sand. (Note 4)
Mangroves trees are being planted at a fast rate to reduce the effect of waves draining the sand. These indigenous plants, which once covered most of the island’s coastline, now only thrive naturally at river mouths and estuaries. They are efficient in trapping sediments that are harmful to corals. (Note 5)
Economic danger of rising sea level.
Hotel occupancy remain at a steady 74 % at peak seasons as most are equipped with modern designed swimming pools and attractive activities. These hotels are aware of the beach erosion and have maintenance programmes to keep the beaches neat and safe. Tourists basically are not here solely for the sandy tropical sunny paradise island. Our tourist industry is safe from the increasing sea level for some decades. (Note 6)
Rising sea level is a global problem which we all hear but can’t do anything about. Our contribution lies only in the protection of the environment. The Mauritian Government makes serious studies about the issue and has started various actions to protect the beaches of the island and prevent further deterioration of the natural beauty of our coastline. The country is not going to just let the sea rise without any response.
Note 1: Ministry of Tourism (2000)
Note 2: Ministry of Environment and Quality of Life (MEQL)
Note 3: MEQL under the Environmental Protection Act (1991)
Note 4: Statistics Mauritius (2019). (Under the Ministry of Finance and Economics)
Note 5: MEQL. The Mangrove propagation programme (1992)
Note 6: Ministry of Tourism (2019)