Our actions in 2020
The flagship actions of mru2025 since its relaunch in 2020.
1. Field actions.
Pomponette beach freed from its barricades. But…
Since August 2016, Pomponette beach has been “de-proclaimed”. That is to say, it lost its public status to make way for a very controversial hotel project.There followed years of arm wrestling between civil society, through Aret Kokin Nu Laplaz citizens’ coalition (AKNL) and the authorities, as well as the developers, so that Pomponette regains its status as a “public beach”. This fight has become a symbol to say “stop the grabbing of our last beaches” and the destruction of our natural heritage.
We won a first step in the battle in September 2020, to recover Pomponette beach; the barricades having been finally removed. But the beach has still not regained its status as a public beach. We had sent a file to the Minister of Lands (S.Obeegadoo) where we objectively explained to him why yet another beach hotel is not reasonable and we had shared with him our vision for Pomponette. We suggested that this beach which is an asset for the region can become a model public beach. It is the ideal place to offer a more responsible reappropriation of a public beach. Since then, with the means at hand, we have installed trash cans, explanatory panels, tables (upcyling), we organize beach stands to educate users on the right practices, we are gradually reintroducing appropriate vegetation for this fragile environment. Sitwayen respekte to laplaz (Citizen, respect your beach!) Is a campaign that is part of this great fight. We regularly take care of its maintenance by organizing cleanings, as there is no garbage collection at Pomponette, the Beach Authority only takes care of the officially proclaimed public beaches.
2. Legal / institutional actions
Pomponette – “Judicial review” against the decision of the Minister of Lands to “deproclaim” this public beach. The word is in quotes because it does not exist; among the powers of a Minister of Lands, the power to “proclaim” is not mentioned. On the other hand, the minister has the explicit power to proclaim portions of “Pas Géométriques” which are State’s Land as “public beaches”. Moreover, Pomponette beach officially became a public beach in April 1991. To this day, the case is still in the Supreme Court because the Minister maintains that the site is still earmarked for a hotel project. In November 2021, it will mark the 5th year since we lodged that case. The legal battle continues. The Judicial Review case obtained its leave to proceed (admissibility) after almost 3 years of exchange of affidavits. However, today the lawyers of the bars who represent the Minister are asking the judges to no longer entertain this case, because this seems to be in the nature of Public interest litigation interest and the notion of “public interest” is not recognized in our law. Another way of denying us, citizens, the legal right to act (locus standi) in this type of case, where it involves questioning a decision taken by a Minister. Decisions to grant leases on state land, or to deproclaim public beaches in an arbitrary manner where citizens have no say.
Bel Ombre, Beau Champ Beach – This case is particularly important in relation to our environmental rights. We sent several letters to the minister of Environment as well as we made an appeal to the Environmental Tribunal. This is in fact a textbook case showing how developers use the gaps and weaknesses of the current legal provisions to obtain permits for hotel or land projects that prove to be detrimental to the environment.
There are, in Beau Champ, by the same group, 2 projects: a hotel on the “Pas Géométriques” and a Property Development Scheme (PDS) project located at the back of the hotel. On these sites are natural wetlands and drains. These include Wetlands numbers 84 and 85 listed in the 2009 Environmentally Sensitive Areas Study commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment. Above all, there is a well-preserved lagoon, hosting colonies of corals in exceptional condition, one of the last such sites around the island. We plan to do a second survey of this part of the lagoon. With the help of scientists, we had already made an inventory of the health of this part of the lagoon, the diversity of the corals, as well as the quality of the water in 2018.
Unfortunately, our attempt to challenge the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) permit of the hotel project before the Environmental Court failed, against procedural arguments, without our arguments and scientific studies being examined for a single second. Here again, our legal right to act as citizens to protect our environment is denied. Any protestor of a project must demonstrate that he or she suffers, or risks suffering, personal damage. This makes it almost impossible to save a wetland, a sand dune, and corals from imminent destruction. Though, we support our locus standi, based on a provision of the Environment Protection Act (2002) which specifies in its Preamble what the principle of “Environmental Stewardship” is about: “It is declared that every person in Mauritius shall use his best endeavors to preserve and enhance the quality of life by caring responsibly for the natural environment of Mauritius.”
But we will maintain our position against this project which will jeopardize a still functional ecosystem. And in so doing we are also fighting for the full recognition of the environmental rights of citizens, rights that are increasingly gaining recognition in other countries. We now have objected to the Building and Land Use permit application for the hotel project in December 2020 and we are expected at the Savanne District Council on Wednesday May 23 2021 to express our objections. We had also contested before the Savanne District Council the construction permit for the PDS project part. It should be noted, sadly, that this part of the project was exempted from an EIA permit, which is unacceptable for such a project located near Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs). To this day, the Beau Champ ecosystem is still under threat of destruction. When we say no to a project, we also offer an alternative. Our goal in this type of case is also to make developers more aware that they are advocating a vision of development that is not aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. (SDGs) Projects which in addition denature landscapes, alienate the inhabitants of these places of life, and destroy ecosystems which provide us with precious and vital services.
3. Actions / Influence communication to convince decision-makers (Advocacy)
– We participated in the Assises de l’Environnement, held in December 2019, and in thematic follow-up meetings in January and February 2020 for the “Masterplan for the Environment in the Republic of Mauritius for the next decade” and submitted our proposals.
– We also participated in the first consultations, held in October 2020, as part of the review for the next 20 years of the National Development Strategy (NDS – national plan for regional planning), by the Ministry of Housing and Land use. Among our proposals: the establishment of an organization such as the Conservatoire du Littoral and the creation of a coastal geopark from La Cambuse to Gris-Gris.
– We participated in December 2020 in the national workshop organized by the authorities concerning the revision of the Environment Protection Act and sent our official proposals in January 2021. We put on the agenda among other proposals the question of the Locus Standi of citizens to act, the difficulty of accessing justice as the time limits for lodging an appeal have been shortened over the years. We have 21 days to appeal and lodge all the technical and scientific reports to support our arguments … which makes it is practically impossible to move forward, because the production of a scientific report requires a certain amount of working time. Legal representatives are therefore also required to work at rates that are also unbearable for this type of case which requires a lot of work.
– Likewise, in October 2020, on the occasion of the Climate Change Bill, we submitted our suggestions and comments so that it allows real participation of civil society. Our ideas were not accepted. There will therefore only be one NGO representative out of the 30 members of the national standing committee on climate change. 28 of the other 29 members are representatives of various state bodies. The 30th member is the representative of the private sector.
4. Actions with international bodies
We have led an urgent campaign with international bodies to flag the fact that the 2020 Finance Bill would further reduce our already very limited environmental rights; in particular that of accessing the Environmental and Land Use Tribunal to challenge an EIA permit. The authorities did not go ahead in the end with this amendment.
This campaign has attracted the support of several international bodies to counter this attempt to roll back environmental justice. (We have received letters of support from the Convention for Biological Diversity, the RAMSAR Convention, the President of the Commission of the European Union, as well as the President of the Delegation of the European Union in Mauritius).
We have lodged an official complaint with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to denounce the context in which a project is taking place in partnership with the State of Mauritius which aims to protect Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) in the coastal zone. This project takes place as a whole series of waterfront luxury hotel and villa projects have been granted environmental and construction permits, even though they are in, or around, various Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) in Les Salines Rivière Noire, Melville, Beau Champ à Bel Ombre, Pointe d’Esny, la Tourelle de Tamarin, la Cambuse, among others.One objective of this project was to review and improve the mapping of ESAs in the coastal zone which was carried out in 2009. This mapping revision took place at the same time as the bulldozers were at work, if not afterwards. We also highlighted the following contradiction: our Government is requesting international funds through the UNDP to protect the ecosystems of the coastal zone and this same government then authorizes the construction of luxury hotels and villas which will weaken or even destroy these same ecosystems.
The expected outcome of our actions, which we tirelessly pursue, would be the rapid adoption of the Environmentally Sensitive Areas Bill, a comprehensive law to ensure real protection of our ecosystems and that all the work carried out does not end up again in a drawer as it often has.
(You will find most of these documents under our “Resources” section or else do not hesitate to contact us).