20 August 2020, The Tablet

Mauritius cardinal welcomes response to oil spill

Mauritius cardinal welcomes response to oil spill

This aerial view taken by drone on August 8, 2020 in Mauritius Island shows a large patch of leaked oil from the vessel MV Wakashio.
Pierre Dalais/Abacpress/PA

Cardinal Maurice Piat of Mauritius has saluted the response to the oil spill in his country, describing it as witnessing to an “ecological conscience” for the people of the Indian Ocean island.

The cardinal's comments came as Mauritians joined in the clean-up and fundraising efforts to mitigate the environmental disaster, the biggest in the south east Indian Ocean. The spilled oil and diesel has threatened to destroy the countries marine treasure, a key tourist attraction.

The disaster on the coastline had occurred after the Japanese owned ship, MV Wakashio, struck coral reef at Pointe d’Esny on July 25 while ferrying 4000 tonnes of oil. Most of oil was pumped out by the weekend, but 1000 tonnes spilled into the sea, causing damage of the Island’s rich marine life.

Cardinal Piat said he was “touched” by the response to the ecological disaster “in the beautiful lagoon of Mahebourg”.

He said: I am thinking especially of the people who live in Mahebourg, Rivière-des-Creoles and the villages of the east coast of Pointe d ' Esny to Quatre Sisters,” Piat, the bishop of Port Louis diocese said in a statement on August 11.

According to the cardinal, many families were struggling with a persistent smell from the spill. The disaster has also disrupted the livelihood of fishermen and others who earn a living from the sea.

“I’m also thinking about all these ecological treasures from the bay, the islands, and the coastline that have been seriously damaged,” said the cardinal.

Piat, however said, in the midst of the pain, he was saluting the ‘beautiful momentum and entrepreneurial solidarity that emerged as in the effort to ‘save what was still possible to save’.

“Thank you to all those who organized it, and to all those who participated and continue to participate with admirable spirit and perseverance,” the Cardinal said, adding that it was beautiful and encouraging to see civil society rising up to respond to the disaster.

That underlined the vital role of the civil society in the country, according to Piat, something decision-makers should take into account. He called on all Christians, especially young people, to commit to cause of saving the habitat.

Mauritius, with its attractive beaches, coral reefs and mangrove forests, thrives on tourism as the key economic earner. The country’s people had also been donating money and raising awareness about the spill in social media.

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