Mauritians Protest ‘Failed’ Government Response to Wakashio Oil Spill

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September 13, 2020

A general view shows the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, that ran aground on a reef, at Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius, in this handout image obtained by Reuters on August 10, 2020. French Army command/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

By Kamlesh Bhuckory (Bloomberg) — Tens of thousands took to the streets in the southeastern region of Mauritius to show discontent over the handling of the nation’s worst-ever environmental disaster after a bulk carrier spilled fuel into the water last month.

It was the second large protest since the Nagashiki Shipping Co.-owned MV Wakashio spilled about 1,000 tons of fuel into the pristine waters of Mauritius, and it shows rising anger about the government’s role. On Aug. 29, protesters marched on the streets of Mauritian capital Port Louis, blaming authorities for failing to prevent a leakage that started almost two weeks after the ship hit a reef.

Protesters including residents from fishing villages marched and later converged at the Mahebourg waterfront for a rally. They waved the national flag and most wore black t-shirts, some with printed words; “i love my country” and “i am ashamed of my government.”

“Government failed to take appropriate decisions to stop the oil spill,” said Ashok Subron, one of the organizers of the protests. “People rallied to protect the sea. Wakashio has shown how attached Mauritians are with the sea and why they are angry. We are challenging the regime and its policies.”

Mauritius faces widespread pollution from the spill, with experts saying it may take as long as a decade to clean up. Yet it’s not known how much any compensation will help the thousands of people who depend on the delicate ecosystem to get their livelihood back. The damage doesn’t bode well for a nation whose economy relies on fishing and tourism and was already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are asking for full transparency in the inquiry regarding Wakashio,” said Rashid Imrith, president of the All Employees Confederation, who also helped organize the match.

The shipping ministry of Mauritius has completed an interim report that will serve as a basis for further investigations, though it hasn’t been released publicly. The government said it’s seeking compensation too.

“We understand that people want to show their anger against a disaster,” Joe Lesjongard, president of the ruling Mouvement Socialiste Mauricien party said by phone. “The government has put in place a police inquiry and a court of investigation to situate responsibilities. we cannot draw conclusions” yet, he said.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P


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