Developments in Bel Ombre Mauritius

Bel Ombre Coastal Sanctuary

Since 2018, eyebrows are being raised over a project located in a place called Beau Champ on the South coast of Mauritius. It has been object to several letters to ministries and other government bodies as well as a (pending) court case. This project makes a “model-case” of how promoters take advantage of loopholes in the legislations and jurisdiction and obtain permits to raise ecocide real-estate and/or hospitality-related projects.

The initial 33-bedroom hotel project by West Coast Leisure limited which is located on coastal state lands on or near two Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) in the form of “coastal fresh water marshlands” (Nos. 84 & 85), listed in the Freshwater Wetlands Report of the ESA Study of 2008-2009 which was the base report for the proposal of an “ESA bill”.

The first question to be raised is how could the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) be approved by the authorities while the project is right on ESA No. 85 and next to ESA 84, in addition to a complex surface and underground aquifer network. When scrutinising the EIA submitted by the promoter, one can notice that there is hardly any mention of the lagoon, which is located just some meters away from the project site.

Another point to raise is how promoters, in order to avoid the long process of EIAs subdivide large projects into several smaller ones, small enough to be exempted of EIA certificates. In this particular case, the promoter mentioned only the 33-room hotel and once all certificates and permits are on good way, presents another project, adjacent to the hotel, counting 44 villas and a wellness centre.

Third question is how come the 44-villa project has been exempted from the process of EIA, being located in or near ESA’s, while the Fifth Schedule of the Environment Protection Act clearly states that an “…EIA licence is mandatory for developments “in environmentally sensitive areas such as water catchment areas, waterlogged areas, wetlands, mountain slopes and islets”.

There could be one or more projects added around the initial one, allowing the promoter to make a major project nearby the sea and on an ESA, with technical data concerning only a small-scale 33-bedroom hotel.

The court-case entered by AKNL against this project has also highlighted the way judicial bodies can work around failures in the Environment protection Act to prevent the Environment and Land Use Tribunal (ELAT) in fulfilling its purposes.

mru2025 aims at rectifying these issues through participations in workshops, via numerous correspondence to ministers, by making the question open and making citizens aware that another of their basic rights according to the international treaties like domestic laws are being ignored or suppressed.

We are also pleading to make this region an ESA sanctuary as part of our coastal geopark project proposed to all stakeholders as sustainable development alternative to the usual real-estate or classic hotel models.

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