- Farzeen Heesambee
Yours Mauritiusly: Agalega
Some interesting facts about Agalega
The Agalega is a group of two small islands, the North island which is the main island, and the South Island, located in the Indian Ocean, north of Mauritius. Both islands are part of the territories and dependencies of the Republic of Mauritius.
The islands have a total land area of 27 square miles and are separated by a stretch of sand bank. One can simply walk across the whole island or used boats to travel when the tides are high. There are very few cars in Agalega as everything is within walking distance and the island has few roads facilities. There is currently no harbour so ships cannot approach the island easily and a small airport.
Agalega boasts of Endemic coconut plantations readily available on the island for the consumption of locals and tourists. The island consists of its own sustainable farming and agriculture which provides adequate food for the islanders as well as for exportation. Copra and coconut oil exportation being the two most important mean of income.
Additionally, the island has its own endemic lizard, the Agalega Island Day Gecko that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
On top of speaking Creole, they also speak “Madam langaz Seret”, a mixture of French and Mauritian Creole which has come down from the time of the slaves. In this language, every syllable is doubled with the first consonants replaced by the “g”, for instance, "Français" becomes "frangrançaisgais".
Why Agalega should be preserved?
Agalega is currently at the risk of being turned into an Indian Army base. Mauritius currently does not have its own army as there has been no requirements for one as the country is not at risk of war. The Indians on the contrary have history of wars and require the need of an army.
The Indian Army have been trying for years to build a base in the Indian Ocean, a strategic position for its location due to a number of Oil Cargo shipments making a few stops on this side of the world. In the past, Indian tried making a deal with Maldives and Seychelles who both turned down the generous financial offer of the Indian Government to build an Indian Army base at the expense of the exploitation of their natural resources. Unfortunately, it does not seem that the Mauritian Authorities share the same sentiment towards the environmental issue this will definitely entail. The people of Maldives and Seychelles have repeatedly expressed their discontent about the Indian Army base and eventually their own respective governments had to back away from the project. The people of those islands themselves carry the love for nature, do the Mauritians share this sentiment towards their property and environment? Time will tell, as not much resistance has been seen so far to oppose the project, which seems well on its way to be realised.
Agalega, an 87 US dollar million deal made without the consensus and approval of the Mauritian public is in the process of turning into a ‘soft’(whatever that means )Indian Army base.
What does this mean for Agalega and Mauritius?
Mauritius is already at risk of losing all its public beaches with contracts being signed off for public beaches to be turned into hotels and villas to foreign investors. With this deal, this means that Agalega, who luckily has not been harmed by too much human intervention and retained its core identity as island with its endemic trees and endemic animals is now at risk of becoming an Industrial waste region. Furthermore, as with the previous deal made for Independence, the then negotiators of Independence sold off the Chagos Island to Britain which is still being disputed as again this was done without the consensus of the people, including the Chagossians. Again, history repeats itself with the people of Agalega helplessly watching at their natural resources are going to be torn apart.
Are the tourists and locals going to watch quietly the destruction of yet another of our natural landscape? So many changes will be required in term of infrastructure as this island does not currently have the capacity to be an Army base, the roads are inadequate, there is no harbour, and only a small landing area for small planes which currently is used by the locals and for export.
I hope people understand that if this happen, we are all complicit of it as this time round we have the opportunity to oppose it unlike the deal that took place for Chagos where we were unaware of the situation.