No. 9 May 1997 Supplement

Country Study News

The Newsletter of the UNEP Collaborating Centre on Energy and Environment


The State of Mauritius lies in the Indian Ocean, some 800 km east of Madagascar, and comprises the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, St. Brandon, Agalega and in addition a number of smaller islands with limited or no population. The main island Mauritius has a land area of 1860 km2 and a population of around 1.1 million inhabitants. The total coastline is approximately 200 km and most of it is surrounded by coral reef.

The Mauritian economy is dominated by three activity areas: textile manufacturing, sugar production and tourism. Approximately half of the land area is cultivated and 90% of this area is used for production of sugar cane. The Mauritian economy has traditionally been very dependent on sugar production, but although it is still the dominant crop a deliberate diversification of the economy over the last decades has led to rapid expansion of, in particular, the textile manufacturing and tourism industries. These two are now the largest foreign exchange earners. The priority in the national planning process is generally on further diversification of the economy especially within the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

Environmental concerns have been given increased priority in the latest development plans and both in terms of institutional structures and legislative foundation major steps have been taken in the early nineties. Mauritius has participated actively in international environmental cooperation since the UN conference on the environment in Stockholm in 1972.

A National Climate Committee (NCC) with the mandate "to improve our knowledge on climate change and its social, economic and environmental impacts" was established by Ministerial decree in 1991. The NCC is chaired by a representative from the Prime Minister's office and it has remained the main policy advisory body in the area of climate change.

Mauritius has already received support from the US Country Study Program for two studies: Inventory of GHG emissions, and Assessment of vulnerability to climate change and possible adaptation measures. The formal implementing organisation for both USCSP projects was Meteorological Services. The present activity under the UNEP/GEF project is also coordinated by the Director of Meteorological Services and the study is being carried out by a technical working group composed of representatives from relevant government bodies, organisations and the university.

Although contributing an insignificant global share of anthropogenic greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, Mauritius is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. Mauritius suffers considerable damage at regular intervals from cyclones, and serious coastal erosion is already evident. This vulnerability and a high level of environmental awareness contributed to Mauritius being the first country to ratify the UNFCCC.

In spite of the relatively low level GHG emissions, the country does have a potential for reductions, particularly of CO2. Currently oil­fired power stations supply electricity to most of the island's consumers, apart from the sugar factories. The latter produce their own power from burning bagasse which has zero net emission of CO2. A potential mitigation option for Mauritius would be to increase the amount of electricity generated by bagasse. Implementation of this option would require considerable investment in advanced technologies, as well as overcoming institutional barriers. In addition the future market for sugar is uncertain. All these factors enter into the analysis, along with other mitigation options such as the use of alternative transport fuels.

Project Coordinator: R. J. Vaghjee, Director, Meteorological Services, Mauritius.

UNEP Centre Project Manager: Henrik Meyer

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Last updated: 30 July 1997
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