Brief historical overview
During the slavery period, Ile aux Bénitiers was once part of the land concessions of Comtesse de Lamark. The ownership of the island changed during the course of history and finally became state land. The state allocated an agricultural bail to the Nubheebuccus family for the coconut plantation. Long before 1992 (year of the pleasure craft Act), fishermen used to transport guests from the nearby hotels for fishing and after the trip, cook the catch of day on Ile aux Bénitiers. The Pleasure craft act obliged the fishermen to have a pleasure craft license organise such trips. Up to date there is an estimated number of 200 pleasure craft operators who use the island’s beach and a daily number of about 30.
Back in 1995, my father, Karl Lamarque (Karlos) founded the MOBI (Monitors of Bénitiers Island) committee to look after the protection of the environment of the island. In 2001, local organisations such as the Association Pêcheurs Professionels et de Plaisance (APPP), the Village council, Solidarité Anti-pollution Ouest (SAPO) joined the committee. Despite their limited means, they extinguished accidental fires many times, organised waste removal regularly from the South-western part and yearly through the island.
I have been informed that years ago, late French singer Carlos planned unsuccessfully to construct a hotel on Ile aux Bénitiers, which raised a lot of protest. In 2002 and 2007 the hotel project plan appeared again; this time from other promoters. Strong protest once again followed, initiated by MOBI including petitions signed by Mauritians and foreigners, which succeeded to stop the project. The protest was organised to protect continuous use of the island by Mauritians and tourists for leisure, while minimising the disturbance of the island by judicious planning. Intentions were also declared to preserve and protect the existing biodiversity of the islet and its surrounding lagoon, it can be debated whether in reality effective actions has taken to this effect.
“Ramasse Plastik, fer li vine Artistik, pou l’ile vine Manifik” (Pick up plastic, make it into something artistic and help keep our island beautiful)
I still remember the day, last year, when a local family was embarking a boat, all set to go back to the mainland were leaving bags full of rubbish behind them. I asked if they could take their rubbish back, and to that, a lady replied nonchalantly “Karlos’s helpers will take care of them.” Being on the island 3 to 4 times a week from mid 2011 until end January 2012, I witnessed trash being left over. People used the island, may or may not come back to it; if they don’t, they don’t care; if they do, they’ll go in a spot where there is no rubbish, or come back to the same place if someone has taken care of it. Whenever I had some time, thanks to low tide, I made it a point to walk along the beach and pick up the rubbish often joined by others who were passing by and also participated in a clean-up days with MOBI.
I was overwhelmed by the amount of work, upset and frustrated week after week. We cannot keep on picking up rubbish: waste we create is everyone’s responsibility. How can we make these actions sustainable, how do we change behaviours? It seemed like a huge task to me, until February 2012: Anneloes Smitsman invited me to join “Global Dialogues,” a physical platform where we can share about ideas and actions that we want to take together for a Sustainable future. It was such a relief to to find that there are people who care and, most importantly, to find the support needed to take further actions through multi-stakeholder engagement.
While talking about the Ile aux Bénitiers clean-up idea Maja Zidov made an interesting point “ what do we do with the rubbish? Let’s think about the 3 R’s, actually, 4: Re-purpose before thinking about re-cycling!” Alice Wade expressed a particular interest at one of the dialogues to make artworks out of rubbish. As we designed the project and shared it online, many other artists and organisations have expressed interest to be on board namely: European union (main sponsor), MOBI (who will provide free boat shuttle to the island), ELIA (Ecological Living In Action, official coordinator of One Future One Planet), MMCS, Mission Verte, Rotaract Clubs, Tamarin Arts Centre, Partage, Eco-raise, and potentially more coming. It is so wonderful to see that enough people care and all want to give a helping hand for a good cause – one we all strongly believe in: love and care for our planet, our home.
Ile aux Benitiers weekend clean-up is part part of OFOP Sustainable Island Living Programme- Zero waste project. We are actively exploring the ways in which we can collaborate and act to Reduce, Re-use, Re-purpose and Re-cycle waste. As follow-up of the weekend clean-up, a Global Dialogue will be held in La Gaulette on the 3rd weekend of October with the inhabitants and different stakeholders. The aim of this dialogue is to explore together, raise awareness and come to a shared commitment to keep our island beautiful and healthy: Creating a better future and world as joined custodians for the planet. “There is no planet “B – Our Planet is Our Responsibility: One Future, One Planet.