Mauritius is a developing country owning an Exclusive Economic Zone of 2.3 million km2. This makes the island the 20th country worldwide having the largest EEZ. However, out of this total area, about only 1% is exploited. The blue economy represents development in the maritime sector whereby the youth of this generation will be the future employee in this sector.
The development in the maritime sector will be one of the most important pillar of the country, but for how long will it be? Ideas and money alone are not enough to make things happen, people should have the skills to make it a reality. It is true that the development in the ocean will create employment, but again will they be able to do it sustainably? Most of the lagoon corals have been bleached mainly because of warm waters, water pollution and also water activities. This has caused a disturbance in the sea water ecosystem. Before the youth of this generation may be employed, there is much education to be done. To add to this, a common saying in Mauritius is that the parents are the role model of the younger generation and the younger ones learn from the elder ones, but then if the parents and grandparents themselves do not set the good example about sustainability and protecting the environment and also cause pollution in front of them, then the child will only learn this bad act and repeat it.
The advancement in the Blue Economy of Mauritius will not be much if the sensitisation and protection do not start as from now. Much of the public beaches are polluted with plastic and smell bad. During my December holidays, I have been to a small rocky beach in the southern region of Mauritius called Kenya. Upon sunrise, I was so surprised to see how polluted this unvisited place was! The pollution was mainly because of wash up and accumulation of plastic debris that came from one place to another. The view was so hurtful to the eyes. But then, one thought came to my mind, why does the government employ people to clean mostly public beaches which are frequently visited by tourists and not beaches like Kenya?
The first step to progress in the Blue Economy is to tackle the problem of pollution which is mainly caused by non-biodegradable plastic. In fact when plastic debris are washed in the sea, marine animals confuse them as their food and eat them but unfortunately many of them suffocate and die. Some are trapped in the debris and grow deformed while others are hurt from it. The problem of pollution may be resolved by educating the older generation about its major impacts and environmental degradation. The banning of plastic bags have solved only a very small percentage of the pollution problem. However, some retailers continue to use the non-biodegradable plastic bags while on the other hand, plastic bottles, baskets, bags and other plastic products which are also non-biodegradable are the main composition of the plastic debris. In fact, an external cost should have been applied to these products which could be the funding of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) or even societies which usually organize beach clean ups.
Written by Deenah Mungur.