Oil spill near Mauritius: A South-African expat gives her insight

Published 2020-08-18 12:47

She was not insensitive to the ordeal faced by her host country. Indeed, Mauritius, a small island in the Indian Ocean, had to deal with a massive oil spill on their South-Eastern coast when a Japanese vessel ran aground on a coral reef. Lucy, a South African expat and Youtuber, who has been living on the island for three years tells us a little about this disaster.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm a CapeTonian filmmaker and avid kite surfer and surfer who's been living on this island for 3 years.  My passion is the ocean and nature, or anything to do with the great outdoors.

What prompted you to move to Mauritius?

The reason I moved here was because my husband (a French National) got a job transfer to Mauritius.  This place also suits our lifestyle perfectly and seemed like a great place to bring up our daughters.

What do you know about the oil spill?

The MV Wakashio ran aground on the 25th July and some 12 days later (around the 6th August) it began leaking vast quantities of oil into the lagoon in Pointe D'Esny.  Since then it's been a mad dash to contain the oil, and drain the stricken ship.  The government's response to this tragedy has been incredibly slow, and amazingly, it has been the local Mauritians who have stood united and have come together in trying to save their lagoons and their heritage.  This is a very important ecological site for the island and it deserves all of the protection it can get.

Around 1000 tonnes of oil leaked from the vessel and into the pristine lagoon of Mauritius.
Source: Mobilisation Nationale Wakashio

Have you been on site to help out?

I have been down to both the beach in Pointe D'Esny and also to the waterfront in Mahebourg where most of the volunteers gathered to make the oil barriers (boudin) when the oil first started leaking.  I have helped with hair donations and goods for the volunteers, as well as cash donations and raising awareness through my videos and a BBC radio interview.

How has the oil spill affected the lives of Mauritians and expats?

I think this oil spill will affect us all for many years.  We're still reeling from the Covid-19 lockdown and the economy having been shutdown for many months, and now tourism will certainly be affected in the SE of Mauritius.  For the local fisherman, this disaster will be immense.  They depend on a healthy ecosystem for their livelihood, and we have yet to see the full magnitude of this environmental disaster on marine life.  I also think the way that this oil spill has brought everyone living here together will also stay with the inhabitants for a long time.  That feeling of solidarity is hard to beat.

How important is it for you to help out during this crisis?

This environmental crisis has been one of the most important and pressing matters that I have ever experienced.  The urgency I have felt to help and to get involved is like a fire burning inside of me.  I don't think I have ever been so determined to raise awareness for any other issue in my life.  I think because the ocean is my passion and because Pointe D'Esny is my favourite beach in Mauritius, I have been deeply affected by this tragedy.  I will never forget the emotions that I felt when I smelt the oil in Mahebourg Waterfront and witnessed a crab covered in oil.  I was devastated - I still am devastated…

How important do you think it should be for expats to help out during crises in their host country?

It's very important for expats and foreigners to get involved in all sorts of aspects of life in a foreign country.  I think it's easy to feel a bit like a spare part or a second rate citizen when you're not in your home country, but wherever you live, it's important to integrate and help in any way you can.  Just as learning a bit about the local culture and the language is a very good way to earn respect with the locals.