Aug 2021

Photo courtesy of Peace Boat

One year since the oil spill disaster in Mauritius: Interview with EPCO – Part Two

M/V Wakashio, a bulk vessel owned and operated by a Japanese company went aground on the south-eastern coast of Mauritius in late July 2020. Ten days later, the ship started spilling oil causing environmental pollution to the sea and coastal areas. At the beginning of August, the Mauritian government declared a state of environmental emergency and called for support from the international community. Immediately after the news, Peace Boat Disaster Relief (PBV) started contacting the Mauritius-based NGOs responding to the emergency, and launched an emergency fund to support their activities. More than 8,500 individuals and organizations in Japan responded to the PBV’s call for donations. We truly appreciate the heartfelt contributions made by so many people.

One of the NGOs which has been supported by the fund is the Environmental Protection and Conservation Organization (EPCO) in Mauritius. To mark one year after the disaster, we had an online conversation with EPCO’s Vice President and Project Leader, Mr. Daksh Beeharry Panray, to look back on their efforts during the last year and learn about their community support projects where they collaborated with PBV. Today, we are sharing the second half of the interview. In case you missed the first half, visit: https://pbv.or.jp/en/news/mauritius05/

What are the ongoing challenges and developments related to the project?

“The impact of the COVID-19 on the Mauritian economy has continued longer than we imagined at the beginning. Especially, those in the tourist industry, such as skippers, are severely hit by the ban on entry of international tourists. We found that there are some communities which completely rely on tourism for their livelihood. Our project aims to offer residents various ways to generate income by utilizing a limited piece of land. Due to the prolonged impact of the pandemic, more funds would be needed to provide sufficient support to the affected communities. There were many local organizations working on environmental and economic recovery projects immediately after the Wakashio disaster, but now there are only a few NGOs working on long-term recovery programs like EPCO.

Fortunately, the government is willing to support our program by offering free training opportunities, including apiculture and hydro-agriculture, and a local company is showing interest in funding the project as a part of their community support program. These are very encouraging development signs emerging locally.

Message to PBV and people in Japan

When we first received a message from PBV saying that they are willing to support our project, we felt relieved because we knew that the project would need long-term support.

Both EPCO and PBV are members of the Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR), and we are looking at the same direction to build more disaster-resilient societies.

The Wakashio disaster was an unprecedented incident to the Mauritian people, but a similar accident could occur in future, considering the recent increase of marine traffic in the area surrounding the country. Although we managed to overcome the crisis by relying on the expertise and technology provided by foreign countries this time, we shall need to build our response capacity, such as training experts, to tackle similar challenges in the future. We may be able to learn lessons from the experience of the Japanese people through past disasters.

This was the first time for us to collaborate with PBV, but I hope this will not be the last one. I believe there are more areas we can collaborate in future and look forward to working with PBV on other projects too.

The EPCO’s project to support the residents in the coastal communities has been implemented and will continue for months to deliver long-term support to the people in challenging situations. We will share more update on the project on our website and social media channels, so please follow us!