Mauritius says NO to MSW Incinerator

Collectif des Opposants à l'Incinération de Déchets

22 June 2009, La Chaumiere, Mauritius.  Ever since an appeal was filed in December 2007 before the Environment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) against the issue of the EIA license by the Ministry of Environment to the Gamma-Covanta MSW Incinerator Project in La Chaumière (Republic of Mauritius), the opposition has been gathering momentum. The Appellants, a group of residents of local communities, are no longer alone in the battle against the Project.

Hearings before the EAT are continuing, and GAIA experts Mr. Rico Euripidou of groundWork (Republic of South Africa) and Professor Eugene Cairncross (Republic of South Africa)are providing testimonies  before the EAT.

In the past weeks, the focus has shifted to grass root level and one can now speak of a real national movement against incineration of waste in Mauritius. The once dominant idea of a Waste to Energy (WTE) being beneficial to the country has been strongly undermined and it will not be long before the movement's stand against incineration of waste becomes the overriding stand.

The Collectif des Opposants à l'Incinération de Déchets, which groups the diverse NGOs, grassroot organisations, local residents associations, and individual citizens that have come in support of the movement, has undertaken a wide range of actions.

During the months of April and May, efforts at mobilizing and sensitizing as many persons and groups as possible were stepped up in view of the "March to La Chaumière" scheduled for May 24. The March was a great success. Over 2000 persons (quite a feat for Mauritius!) rallied for a 4 km march to the proposed incinerator site.

On April 25, a smaller group of opponents had joined a broad civil protest march against a whole range of issues. This march was organized by workers unions.

The public involvement of two specialists from overseas, which was well covered by the press, has also had a great impact on the Mauritian public: Dany Dietmann, a retired French university professor and ardent anti-incineration campaigner gave lectures on incineration of waste and addressed the crowd at the May 24. Professor Belpomme, the eminent French cancer specialist who had been the president of ARTAC (Association pour la Recherche Thérapeutique Anti-Cancéreuse) for a number of years, sent, in June, an Open letter to Mauritians where he urged them to consider all his arguments against the incineration of waste.

The debate over the WTE project took an important, if not decisive, turn at the beginning of June. The Prime Minister, Rt. Hon Dr. Navin Ramgoolam, stated that he would be the one to take the final decision about the project, upon the advice from his advisor on sustainable development, international expert Joel de Rosnay. Joel de Rosnay is the one behind the Maurice Ile Durable (MID) programme, whereby Mauritius aims to reduce its dependency on fossil fuel by two thirds by 2028.

Our next step is to extend the sensitization campaign as to the alternatives to WTE, both in terms of waste management and energy production, to other part of the island in an endeavour to continue putting the pressure on our decision makers.

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