Team Sovereign Mauritius scrambles to join volunteer army to contain environmental disaster

The staff of Sovereign Trust (Mauritius) took advantage of the Assumption Day public holiday on 15 August to volunteer for oil spill clean-up operations after the bulk carrier vessel, MW Wakashio, ran aground on the reef of Point d’Esny, a known sanctuary for rare wildlife, leaking more than 1,000 tons of fuel, oil and oil sludge.

The area, on the south-east coast of Mauritius, is the largest remaining wetland in Mauritius and is designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. The Île aux Aigrettes Nature Reserve, Blue Bay Marine Area and Mahebourg Fishing Reserves all lie close to the spill site.

Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of emergency and appealed for international help and, since then, volunteers have also been making barriers to contain the oil and helping to clean up the island’s beaches. Greenpeace Africa has warned that “thousands” of animal species were “at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius’ economy, food security and health”.

The 27 staff members of Sovereign Mauritius drove down to Mahebourg, the nearest and worst-affected town to the Wakashio, to support the Lions Club in their oil clean up efforts.

Split into two teams, one team headed to the supermarket to purchase huge supplies of fresh water and food, which was donated to the local people, many of whom rely solely on fishing for survival. The other team drove up and down the coast to various volunteering spots to lend a hand and made a large donation of empty plastic bottles that were was used to float the mesh barriers used to contain the oil.

“As we reflect on the damage done by MV Wakashio to the shores of Mauritius, I think we can be proud of the immense human effort that has gone into the clean-up project. Regardless of race, creed, class or residency status … everyone came together and made a difference for the better. Grateful that Team Sovereign Mauritius came out in full support of this incredibly important cause alongside the #lionsclubmauritius, every bit helps,” said Nico van Zyl, Managing Director of Sovereign Trust (Mauritius).

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