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Pamela Bapoo-Dundoo: “We need to adopt an environmental economics approach”

Pamela Bapoo-Dundoo, who has been the National Co-ordinator for the GEF SGP programme for the last seventeen years, recommends looking at the economic arguments in determining the value of natural resources.

photos : deeneshen sabapathee | mmcs | gef sgp

Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) has been running in Mauritius for nearly twenty years. It has provided small grants to various community organisations and NGOs working to resolve environmental issues. The National Co-ordinator, Pamela Bapoo-Dundoo, favours the application of the principles of environmental economics “in order to determine the economic advantages, for example, of a beautiful beach or beautiful lagoon. The advantages can be calculated – as the Mauritius Marine Conservation Society (MMCS) showed three or four years ago in estimating receipts from dolphin watching at Rs152 million per year, without taking into account the dolphins’ contribution to the ecosystem.” She argues that “Putting an economic value on the environment makes it easier to convince people of the validity of preserving it.” This evaluation was made as part of a project, financed by the GEF SGP, to prevent these mammals being harassed. With the collaboration of the ministries of Fisheries and Tourism, a responsible approach system was introduced. These efforts led to the adoption of the Tourism Authority (Dolphin and Whale Watching) Regulations in 2012 in order to provide legal back-up. Last year, the MMCS and the Tourism Authority also worked together to train 300 skippers about sea mammals and how to approach them. Finance is also provided for the protection and restoration of corals. The installation of anchor buoys in the lagoon by the MMCS and Reef Conservation has meant it has been possible to reduce the damage done to corals by boat anchors. The GEF SGP is supporting a further project for an experimental coral farm at Trou aux Biches run by the NGO, ELI Africa, in association with the Mauritius Oceanography Institute. As Pamela Bapoo-Dundoo emphasises, “All our projects have a scientific dimension.” The programme has also participated in the building of a Beach Resource Centre run by Reef Conservation in Pereybere, with the support of the Ministry of Local Government and the Beach Authority. Further to this initiative, the NGO has set up a project for a voluntary marine conservation area at Anse la Raie, with the involvement of the local community. Other projects financed by GEF SGP include a study of the environmental impact of human activity on the Blue Bay Marine Park, an initiative to protect areas where sea turtles nest on Amber Island and the construction of a nursery for mangrove plants to be used in the Grand Sable and Petit Sable regions. Pamela emphasises that “Community involvement is an essential element in the activities funded by the GEF SGP since its inception in 1992.”

Beneficial influence of temporary closure of octopus fishing

The closed season introduced for octopus (ourite) fishing in Rodrigues from August to October in 2012 and 2013 turned out to be a great success. The initiative was undertaken after studies carried out by the NGO, Shoals Rodrigues, and the South East Marine Protected Area had observed a reduction in the island’s lagoon area octopus population. It was supported by the Indian Ocean Commission’s SmartFish project, the Regional Assembly and the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme. The temporary cessation of fishing led to an increase in subsequent catches as well as in the size of the ourites caught. During the closed season an alternative work programme was set up enabling some thousand people registered as ourite fishers to receive an income n return for community work, particularly the eradication of invasive plants, the restoration of endemic plant life and the construction of drains.

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