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Oil Spill Highlights Inequality in Mauritius

Over the years Mauritius has transitioned into a middle-income country, growing its financial, industrial, tourism and IT industries. But the ocean continues to be hugely important to many poorer Mauritians who rely on it for subsistence, culture and leisure. It’s particularly important for vulnerable communities that live in villages along the coastline, most of whom are Creoles, the descendants of African and Malagasy people. From the mid 17th to the 18th Century, the ancestors of Creoles were brought to Mauritius and forced into slavery. After the abolition of slavery in 1835, many Creoles settled in coastal villages. When Mauritius attained independence in 1968, it remained a hierarchical society. It continues to be led by powerful Franco-Mauritian families and influential ‘high caste’ Hindu Mauritians. Dynastic politics became the norm. Despite tourism and human development gains, certain communities struggle with poverty and are marginalised. The oil spill highlights the plight of impoverished communities that live along the coastline, and policymakers must act on the recommendation of the report to address the inequalities in Mauritian society. A Facebook group titled “Rivière des Creoles”, after a river in southeastern Mauritius, has shared images of oil soaked mangroves, beaches and dead fish, and images of locals knee deep in oil residue. This is but a snapshot of what these communities now grapple with.