Oil spill threatens Mauritius' unique marine environment

August 12, 2020 | Environment
MV Wakashio: stranded stranded on the coral reefs off the coast of Mauritius | Photo: Greenpeace Africa

A rupture in a Panama-flagged vessel carrying around 4,000 tonnes of diesel and oil caused an environmental disaster in the waters of Mauritius.

The ship "MV Wakashio," which was sailing from China to Brazil, ran aground on July 25 in the southeast of the Indian Ocean archipelago.

The local government confirmed the rupture in the ship and the existence of an oil leak.

Environment Minister Kavydass Ramano said that the authorities have made every effort to remove the crew from the ship and that the priority now is to prevent fuel spilled in the sea from reaching the nearby beaches and lagoons.

The ship is estimated to be carrying around 200 tonnes of diesel and 3,800 tonnes of oil.

Mauritius is an internationally renowned tourist destination thanks to its paradisiacal beaches located east of Madagascar.

Thousands of residents, environmental activists, and students are now working nonstop to try to minimize the damage.

Mauritius: a paradise islands destroyed by oil and fuel

A Threat for 1.3 Million People

The "MV Wakashio" is stranded on the coral reefs off the island.

It is estimated that one ton of oil from the cargo of the Japanese four-ton ship has already leaked into the sea.

Several workers are trying to prevent more oil leaks, but with strong winds and rough seas, new cracks were found in the ship's hull.

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of emergency and called for international aid.

The spill represents a threat for the 1.3 million people who depend heavily on tourism and have already been severely hampered by restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Satellite images show a dark patch spreading in turquoise waters near wetlands classified as "very sensitive" from an environmental point of view.

An Unprecedented Tragedy

Wildlife advocates and volunteers have meanwhile removed dozens of baby turtles and rare plants from an island near the spill.

Several fish have already been found dead floating in black waters.

The ecological tragedy has already had a negative impact in the Mahebourg lagoon protected area and several other parts of Mauritius.

The government is trying to slow the spread of oil using sugar cane straws, plastic bottles, and strips of fabric filled with leaves.

Constant waves and winds are pushing the fossil fuels all around the island precisely in a time when coral reefs had started to regenerate.

Environmentalists and the local population state that the authorities should've acted faster after the ship ran aground on July 25.

Nagashiki Shipping and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines - the owner and operator of the ship, respectively - have already apologized for the oil leak and sent experts to join the cleanup effort.

The companies say that "MV Wakashio" was supposed to be 10 to 20 miles (16 to 32 kilometers) away from the island, and the reason why the ship deviated from the route is under investigation.

The decisive critical plan is to pump out and transfer the remaining oil from the ship to land before it breaks up.

 

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