Over the last few decades, Mauritius has transitioned into an idyllic tourist hotspot, hosting some of the world’s most luxurious holiday resorts and hotels. Its sparkling turquoise ocean, and pristine beaches remains its most important source of income- not just for its booming hospitality industry, but also for the locals who rely on it for subsistence and cultural practices.
Recently, Mauritius faced its greatest environmental disaster in the modern age. On the 25th of July 2020, a Japanese bulk carrier under the Panama flag, the MV Wakashio, struck a coral reef barrier off the south eastern coast, leaking roughly 1,000 tons of oil and diesel, distressing ecosystems, marine life, and the livelihoods of communities living along Pointe d’Esny.
Source: Greenpeace Africa
A community fighting against the odds
Almost immediately, thousands of volunteers joined forces with authorities to work tirelessly in curbing the progression of the oil slick to the shoreline. This massive clean-up operation involved volunteers shovelling oil from the shoreline, and using floating booms- made from nylon material and stuffed with sugarcane leaves and even hair donated by locals, to contain the spread.
The solidarity of the Mauritian community spilled over to Australia, where Sydney salons stockpiled nearly 10 tons of human hair for use in the floating booms. Just a week prior to the oil spill, research by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) revealed that human hair was highly effective at absorbing oil.
Source: Alliance AP
Source: US News
Whilst rehabilitation of the marine ecosystem will take years to fully recover from this ecological tragedy, the fast response and innovative actions of the community, certainly played a significant role in limiting the far-reaching impacts of the oil spill. Reports have indicated that only 10-12km of the coastline have been affected, with the remaining coastline (310km) saved from the toxic oil sludge.
Community involvement is crucial in environmental conservation
The commendable efforts of the Mauritian community highlight the effectiveness in a collaborative approach involving communities, corporate, and government spheres, in mitigating unforeseen environmental disasters, and successful implementation of environmental conservation initiatives.
From years of valuable experience in community projects, Don’t Waste has appreciated the power of collaboration and established a not-for-profit organization – The Zero Waste Foundation. The Zero Waste Foundation has three mandates, to organize and facilitate clean-up initiatives, to support alternatives to landfill (thereby reducing waste), and to promote public recycling. All these works to actively drive sustainable practices through the associated waste minimization and clean-up projects.
Since its inception, The Zero Waste Foundation, supported by Don’t Waste, has successfully implemented several clean-up operations throughout South Africa and Mauritius, teaming up with social partners and clients. The foundation welcomes both not-for-profit and corporate entities to join a growing list of partners, to action further environmental clean ups and other social investment initiatives.
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