Actions for a Better Mauritius

It is well to remember that whether we live in a gated residence, drink bottled water or breathe bottled air, Karma has its own way to catch up with us

Recently a policeman in Mahebourg booked a politician who allegedly interfered and prevented him from doing his duty to ensure that our citizens obey the law.

A lecturer at the University of Mauritius splashed it out in the press about the shortcomings in the structure of assessment and examinations. She could have gone even further and quoted some excerpts from Examiners’ Reports as well as Lecturers’ Reports on the examination performance of students to substantiate her views.

All these people and many others deserve the congratulations of all well-meaning citizens, for they provide examples and remind us that there are indeed many of our citizens who conscientiously perform their jobs and are outraged by the malpractices around them which they are prepared to fearlessly denounce.

There is also the case of a young man who chased a thief who had snatched a patient’s handbag in a hospital, got him arrested and delivered to the police. There are of course many more people who anonymously take similar action in various fields of life every day. These are the people who are contributing to make this island a better place, and there is more which can be done by any one of us individually or at the level of an organisation or government body to make things happen for a better Mauritius. Let me therefore list two areas where we all can do something, each at our different levels to enhance the quality of life and make the island more liveable.

For a number of reasons, partly historical and often due to the lack of resources or poor planning, people have been compelled to build their houses on very tiny plots of land with the result that noise pollution has become a major headache for people living not only in flats or even for those who live in fully detached houses. Lack of consideration on the part of our citizens for their neighbours has exacerbated the problem in many parts of the island, thereby souring relations in the neighbourhood and even resulting in serious conflicts which make life on earth a hell for many people.

One has to admit that in such cases neither the police nor even the law is of much help especially as such nuisance happens during the day. On the other hand, our society is changing and more and more people have to do night shifts to gain their living. They need to be protected from noise pollution during the day. Just go to Ebene and you will be surprised at the number of people doing night shifts, and it is not only people working in the new sectors coming up e.g. ICT or financial services, but also all those policemen, nurses, firemen and security officers and many more who have to take rest after their night shifts.

Today many people work from home; we also have an increasing number of old people who need to live quietly and in peace in their homes and have nowhere else to go. It is time for the authorities to revise and toughen the law against noise pollution so that both the police and Environmental Police Officers in particular are empowered to act against those who break the law.

Often it is the strict enforcement of the law that proves the best way to change people’s mentality and ingrained habits. Look at what has happened in the wake of the abolishing of the point system, which served to monitor the driving habits of all licensed drivers: we will be faced with the grim realities of more deaths on the road by the end of the year.

Noise pollution is not the result only of neighbours’ lack of consideration for their fellow human beings, a similar nuisance is being caused by heavy lorries driving through and clogging narrow roads in villages just to avoid using the motorway, thereby putting even more lives at risk. Here too the authorities and the police can act to mitigate the nuisance as it is happening in many places in Mauritius itself.

Another major hazard to our health and the environment that many people must have noticed is the dumping of coal and fly ash in sugarcane fields. Some time back, we came across a heap of coal ash being so dumped in the vicinity of a village in the eastern part of Mauritius. Following our inquiry, we were told that it would be spread in the fields.

These wastes from coal combustion are known to contain dangerous metals such as arsenic and mercury and are in many ways dangerous to health. They may cause cancer, asthma and many more diseases, pollute the air as well as the water tables, and when washed to the sea will kill the marine resources in our lagoons. When one learns that there is a very high incidence of cancer among women in a particular village, one should be extremely worried, the more so as we know that every year thousands of tons of such wastes are released in our environment.

The organisation which is responsible for monitoring such hazards will always come forward with as many excuses as possible to reassure people that only a small harmless portion of such wastes is being released in the environment. They may even argue that in America these are easily and safely contained in landfills. But they overlook the fact that tiny Mauritius is not a continent and thousands of tons of such wastes will over the years find their way in the earth and in the air, and our environment already cannot cope with these wastes.

Let us hope that these organisations take up the matter seriously and do something about it to avert a catastrophe ahead. It is well to remember that whether we live in a gated residence, drink bottled water or breathe bottled air, Karma has its own way to catch up with us.

Today, at the individual level, we have more ways than ever to exercise pressure to make things happen for the better. We can use the radio, the press, social media, and all of us in one way or another are members of different organisations – religious or secular – which can help promote a better Mauritius.

We have to sensitize our own family, friends and neighbours about the need to act ethically and to give up habits which are nefarious to ourselves as well as to others. We can always boycott products and services of organisations which act against the national interest. Though it is important to act individually where necessary, it is also important that we build support and solidarity and act collectively for this is always more effective to win the many battles we are faced with in life.

Sada Reddi

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