Mauritius oil spill: Everything you need to know and how you can help now

By Harriet Piercy

Updated Sep 17, 2020 at 04:35 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

What is the oil spill about in Mauritius?

Over the past few weeks, a ship and its surroundings are in panic as the Japanese owned bulk carrier ran aground on a reef at Pointe d’Esny, a known sanctuary for rare wildlife in Mauritius. The MV Wakashio, owned by the Nagashiki Shipping Company, struck the reef on July 25. Over the last two weeks, oil has been seeping into waters that are home to what is one of the most ecologically diverse and pristine oceans in the world. Greenpeace said the spill is likely to be one of the most terrible ecological crises Mauritius has ever seen.

Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency, pleading for international help as the fuel began leaking from a crack in the vessel’s hull. Greenpeace stated that “Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny and Mahebourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius’s economy, food security and health.”

Mauritius is famous for its coral reefs and marine life, this disaster could lead to a staggering upset of the islands future economy as well as devastate the surrounding ocean.

What do oil spills do?

Oil spills destroy and kill everything in the way of their path, so the local community is scrambling together to contain and control the damage, but this is not enough—the cracks that have already leaked more than 1000 tonnes of fuel are growing, with a further 2,500 tonnes of oil on board to pressure these cracks into a ship split in two.

The prime minister of the Indian Ocean nation, Pravind Jugnauth, has said that response crews are only just managing to slow the leak, but that the island was bracing for the worst. “The cracks have grown. The situation is even worse,” he told reporters “The risk of the boat breaking in half still exists.”

Heartbreak shadows thousands of volunteers’ faces as they desperately fight to hold back the deadly tides, ignoring official instructions to stay uninvolved, the people string together improvised floating barriers, made of straw stuffed into fabric sacks. The government was slow to act, “The authorities did nothing for days. Now they are but it’s too late. I am angry.” said local taxi driver Fezal Noordaully.

Environmental activist Ashok Subron told AFP news that “People have realised that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora.”

Akihiko Ono who is the executive vice-president of Mitsui OSK Lines apologised for the spill and for “the great trouble we have caused.” He vowed that the company would do “everything in their power to resolve the issue.”

The spill is a double blow: for the fragile environment that global warming and pollution have been increasingly threatening to collapse, and for the tourism that the island’s economy is predominantly built on, which Mauritians had hoped foreign tourists would be able to return soon as the area was already affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The suffocation that living organisms are forced by humans to endure is unimaginable. The extent and spread of the black oil slick can be seen from space, and is growing. And the menacing sludge that is almost impossible to dissolve without the necessary machinery, that the island did not have, will continue to leak. Maybe 2020 will be the year that we realise what disasters are created by a delay in response.

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