Victory: coal power plant in Mauritius canceled

Plateforme Citoyenne, Mauritius

18 March 2015

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Environmentalists and locals have won the battle against a controversial 115 MW coal power plant on the small island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. It was like a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of Mauritians since 2006.  The new government, elected in December 2014, announced on Friday 13 March 2015 that “Government would consider other feasible options, with necessary transparency and clarity, to meet electricity demands for the period 2015-2019 and ensure energy security for Mauritius.”

The coal power plant was supposed to be erected on the wild cliffs of the west coast, by the side of a centenarian light-house, with the nearest residential area as near as 450 meters. Click here to view a video of the location.

A coalition of engaged individuals, engineers from various fields, environmental organisations and peoples’ movements developed a robust campaign against the power plant, including sensitisation meetings with local residents, peaceful marches and even a hunger strike in 2013 to force the Government to abandon the coal power plant project.  One of the main result was the creation of a National Energy Commission, with a mandate assigned by Government “to review national energy requirements; advise Government and other authorities concerned in the planning and execution of major projects in the energy sector to fully meet medium and long term needs; and oversee the operation of the ‘Maurice Ile Durable’ (MID) Fund.”

Without the relentless effort of these dedicated persons, this new coal power plant would have locked the island further in its dependency on fossil fuels and impede the deployment of renewable energies on the island, which accounts for only 15% of the country’s energy mix. Total yearly import of coal which is actually above 700,000 tonnes would have increased by approximately 500,000 tonnes and emission of carbon dioxide would have increased by 1.2 million tonnes yearly. Its operation would have threatened the health and quality of life of thousands. Local fishermen feared that discharges from the plant would have imperilled their livelihood. The smokestack, which was supposed to be 110 meters high, representing an eyesore, would have impacted on the tourism sector, on which the economy heavily relies on. On top of that, the project was an unsolicited bid and was tainted with suspicions of corruption.

The cancellation of the coal plant ends a nine year struggle.  Even though the fight against the coal power plant is over, our organisation will continue its activities. We are here to stay and we are ready and willing to work with both the State and the private sector in identifying and implementing solutions to respond to environmental concerns in energy production. We will continue to advocate for a rapid transition towards a low carbon economy and the phasing out of existing coal power plants, keeping in mind that the cheapest way forward would be to encourage reduction in energy demands across the country.

It is worth mentioning that this campaign would not have been fruitful without the support of the Mauritian diaspora and international organisations like 350.org and Greenpeace.

On behalf of all those who were involved in this struggle, we thank the Prime Minister for safeguarding our priceless natural heritage and strengthening the role of Mauritius as an environmental trailblazer among the Small Island Developing States community.

This is a message of hope that the people ultimately holds power. Together we stand, divided we fall.

 For more information, please contact:

Fabiani Balisson

President and Spokesman of the Plateforme Citoyenne

Email: [email protected]

Website: http://plateforme-citoyenne.org