The campaign which will be sustained throughout the year is an initiative of the Ministry of Tourism and Leisure, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Local Government and Outer Islands. It will comprise TV and radio spots, posters, advertisements on bus panels, talks in schools and colleges and regular audiovisual programmes.
The Police Force, through the Police de l’Environnement and the Police du Tourisme, will ensure that the existing rules and regulations on illegal littering are enforced. For the first offence, a fine not less than Rs 500 but not exceeding Rs 2 000 will be applicable. For a second offence or subsequent offence, the fine will be not less than Rs 10 000 and a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year.
During the press conference, the Minister of Tourism and Leisure, Mr Michael Sik Yuen, recalled that Mauritius is a top tourist destination and underlined the need for all citizens to understand the importance of maintaining a clean environment across the island while preventing littering of public places and beaches. In the wake of the euro crisis and the global competition, it is essential that Mauritius preserves its image as a safe and clean destination, he said.
According to the Minister, several places are becoming eyesores and the country’s image as a tourist destination is likely to be tarnished due to the uncivic behaviour of the population. A survey carried out recently shows that tourists want to see Mauritius as a cleaner and stray dog-free destination. He cautioned that polluters will be severely punished and those who do not respect the environment and throw rubbish in public places will be sanctioned.
For his part, the Minister of Local Government and Outer Islands, Mr Hervé Aimée, pointed out that the national sensitisation campaign aims to give a strong signal to each citizen to be more responsible. Statistics reveal that in 2011, 414 000 tonnes of waste were carted to Mare Chicose landfill station and out of the 100 million plastic bottles put on the market every year, only 40% were recycled. He recalled that almost Rs 1 billion is spent in the collection and carting of waste.
In a bid to prevent illegal dumping and littering, measures have been initiated with regard to the installation of bins on main roads and strategic places, in the municipalities and public places for use by the public. Other actions relate to upgrading, embellishment and maintenance of tourist spots and the sorting of wastes in towns and villages.
Speaking about the campaign, the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Mr Devanand Virahsawmy, pointed out that Government has taken several measures to protect the environment and prevent environmental degradation. These include the ‘Maurice Ile Durable’ project, Integrated Coastal Zone Management project and measures to protect the ozone layer. He expressed his satisfaction that the World Health Organisation in a survey carried out in 2011 ranked Mauritius 2nd in the world and 1st in Africa as regards air quality. On the Environmental Performance Index, Mauritius is rated 6th by Yale University on a total of 163 countries.
However, the Minister pointed out that all these measures and strategies would be in vain if citizens do not change their mindset and fail to recognize their responsibility to tackle environmental problems and create the necessary conditions where all species and the ecosystem which help to sustain life on earth co-exist in perfect harmony. He appealed to the population, the NGOs and private sector to work in collaboration as a team of responsible citizens to make Mauritius a cleaner country.