As if 2020 could not get much worse, there is now an environmental emergency across the pond. You may well be aware of the oil spill in Mauritius, but you may not understand why it is so serious. On the 25th July, the Japanese tanker, MV Wakashio ran aground causing some of its 4000-ton load of oil to spill out into the Indian ocean. Despite it not being the biggest oil spill, we have seen globally, its severity comes with where it happened. As Vassen Kauppaymuthoo, oceanographer and environmental engineer has commented, “the oil spill occurred in one of, if not the most, sensitive areas in the Mauritius”. The ship ran aground at Pointe d’Esny, which is a known sanctuary for rare wildlife, and the area contains wetlands of international importance by the Ramsar convention.
So why is this something we should be worried about?
On 7th August, the Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of emergency and appealed for international help. Despite three times the potential spill being averted, a marine ecosystem with a wealth of biodiversity has been polluted with close to 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil. This will have a devastating impact on the environment.
Helicopters have been deployed to Mauritius to help transfer the fuel from the ship to the shore, but bad weather has meant these efforts have been curtailed. Volunteers have come from all over to help – by collecting straw from fields and filling sacks to make barricades against the oil, but there is only so much this will do. This dire situation is not something that should be taken lightly and there are fears that the ship could break in two, causing more of the oil on board to spill.
What can you do to help?
Now, getting to the Mauritius to help is not exactly on the list of options for everyone, firstly due to COVID-19 and secondly because it is not cheap or easy to get to. Luckily, there are other ways to be of assistance. A fundraiser has been set up by Eco-Sud, the Mauritian based NGO to help the cleaning up of the oil. This also involves long-term conservation projects and important research into the future impact of the spill. You can also donate to the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and Greenpeace Africa.
If you are not in the position to donate then we urge you to sign this petition calling for the United Nations to help oversee the clean-up efforts. The Mauritius is a small island and does not have all the resources it needs to solve this crisis. Involvement from the UN could help the situation immensely.
So, please get involved! We can still help from afar to save this beautiful island. If you have any questions or more information about the crisis please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you!