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Stand Up For Your Future

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on April 1, 2022 07:28

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People seem tempted to give up in the struggle against regulations, taxes, ever more complicated lives, and the effects of the pandemic. Here is a story of people who turned disaster into opportunity.

On 25 July 2020, the MV Wakashio was stranded at Pointe D'Esny in southeast Mauritius. The island population, numbed by COVID and the death of the tourism industry, at first found it a distraction. But fishermen warned that the Indian Ocean demands respect. It did not take long for the first oil to spill from the fractured hull.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmnD-3r8y5M

By 10 August, a thousand metric tons of fuel oil covered as much as 27 km2 of coastline. International experts planned to send high-tech pads, some containing graphene, to soak up oil. The coastal community mopped up the oil with straw and even human hair. Sugar cane bagasse, donated by estates, were sewn into netting supplied by other farms. Fishermen towed the resultant ‘sausages’ out into the bay to protect what could still be protected. Fishermen and hotel executives, unemployed youth and housewives, Hindu and creole, all communities flocked to help scoop oil from the beaches and rockpools, spread straw on contaminated areas, and rescue what marine life they could.

Frantic government efforts to pump out as much of the oil as possible ensued. Fishermen, divers, and tour operators watched as an oil slick spread toward sensitive coral reefs. An Indian barge began to take fuel oil off the wreck when the weather allowed. Conservationists saw oil invading RAMSAR-declared wetlands and mangroves. Foreign Governments promised help and specialist teams. Residents of villages saw their beaches covered with black tar and collected straw and even human hair to mop it up.

A couple reflected on what they could contribute. Lana Barteleva, Marine biologist, and Hugues Vitry, diving instructor and environmentalist, considered what the local community would need to respond to this disaster, what they lacked and could not afford, and what skills were needed by the local economy. They proposed to donors a plan to provide training based on their own conservation experience and diving skills. With support from the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Recreation and funding from the United Nations Development Fund, they identified a number of people, mostly unemployed since the beginning of the pandemic, to train as commercial divers. Only four women were in the group of mostly fishermen and boat skippers.

Embarking on a new career. Photo H Vitry, Blue Water Divers

The course included exposure to sustainable practices, responsible whale and dolphin watching, and fish farming. The University of Mauritius presented a module on coral farming. At the end of the course, the participants received a diving computer, something they would not have been able to afford. Most immediately found employment in dive centers and fish farming projects.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REGmFiLLrEM&t=9s


One of the participants commented: “After all what we have been through with Wakashio this was the best that could have happened to us. It have moved us of the depression of not working, given us new perspective, helped me discover a world I would never have imagined.”

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on April 1, 2022 07:28

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Source: The Hill

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