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Anthropogenic Driven Changes with Focus on the Coastal Zone of Mauritius, South-Western Indian Ocean

Author(s): Ramessur RT


Some 44% of the world's population lives within 150 km of the coast and mass migration towards the coast will continue in the decades ahead. Degrading and exhaustive uses of land, water and other coastal resources and disruption of environmental processes through degradation of environmental quality and loss of critical terrestrial and aquatic habitats can lead to serious deleterious impacts on the health and productivity of coastal ecosystems. Following the Arusha Resolution (1993), the Seychelles Statement (1996) and the Colombo CZM Workshop (1999), the need for integrated coastal zone management has become critical because of the limited land resources and unproportional domination of coastal areas in the wider Caribbean and Indian Ocean/ Pacific island states. The coastal zone of Mauritius (1,850 km2, 20°S, 58°E, south-western Indian Ocean, 1.12 million inhabitants) was redefined in 1997 in the Environmental Protection Act of 1991 [Part VII (Act 34)] to include all islets within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ; 1.7 million km2). During the 1980s, the Mauritian economy underwent major structural changes successfully, with a rapid phase of industrialization diversifying into two major activities, textiles and tourism. Existing reports and data in a common framework have to be synthesized and organized to fill existing gaps in knowledge with data collection and scientific inquiries, to identify social and economic drivers and to relate socioeconomic change to demands for environmental resources (land use, water resources, marine systems) and environmental impacts as proposed under the MERMAID (Mauritius Environmental Resource Management and Industrial Development) project. Nutrient flux and sediment trace metal contamination studies are currently underway to investigate different watersheds impacted by agricultural, urban and industrial activities in the north-west of the island. There is a pressing need to integrate the natural sciences with socioeconomic disciplines as proposed by the International Human Dimensions Program (IHDP) for an integrated management of coastal zones. Three integrated pilot projects in the Pacific-Indian Ocean and wider Caribbean as identified by Land Ocean Interaction in the Coastal Zone (LOICZ) in the future, including current status and changes in material fluxes from drainage basins, transboundary impacts from the ocean and atmospheric inputs, could elucidate the land–sea interactions and human dimensions of change on small islands. The sustainability of marine resources and the conservation of biological diversity will depend on a critical understanding of linkages between human activities and ecological responses and upon a citizenry that assumes ownership of these regions. Case studies would also help in investigating how humans affect transport pathways and biogeochemical cycles in small island states.

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