Environment and Biodiversity

Environmental Management in Mauritius
Economic development along with environmental protection and social justice are the basis of sustainable development. However, the linkages between economy, environment and society are intricate and diverse. Similarly, natural resources are the foundation of the country’s future. However, our decisions, policies and actions influence the environment we live in and human wellbeing depends on the quality and capacity of environmental services such as clean water, land, fresh air and biodiversity. Nevertheless, in the drive for social and economic development, we have often ignored or undervalued our environment and put pressures on it.
However, Mauritius has come a long way since the 1992 Earth Summit. The environment policy framework for Mauritius is deeply anchored in the concept of sustainable development and incorporates the relevant recommendations of the major international conferences. The National Environment Policy is based on a series of the Rio Principles, which include among others: placing humans at the centre of environmental sustainability, mainstreaming environmental concerns in economic and social development, precautionary principle, polluter pays principle, maintenance of ecological integrity as well as environmental stewardship.

Overall, considerable progress has been achieved in environmental management and the range of policies is now more advanced compared to twenty years ago. Comprehensive environmental policies and strategies and an umbrella legislative framework promote and enable strategic level decision-making, development control, pollution prevention, prosecution and standards development amongst others. Environmental stewardship is also an integral component of the Environment Protection Act and stipulates that each and every citizen of Mauritius must preserve and enhance the quality of life by caring responsibly for the natural environment.

Additionally, environmental concerns have been mainstreamed in sectoral plans and a more holistic approach to development and planning has contributed to shift environment from the periphery to the core of decision making. Sectoral policies have been developed across the following thematic areas: land, biodiversity, forests, wastewater, solid waste, coastal zone management, tourism and energy among others.

Actions taken to protect and manage the environment


A series of projects have been undertaken to improve air quality such as phasing out of leaded petrol, importing cleaner diesel, banning chlorofluorocarbons and monitoring vehicular emissions among others. Regulations and standards on air quality have been promulgated and are being reviewed. Air quality monitoring and enforcement are undertaken.
Mauritius is a water-stressed country and a number of activities put pressure on freshwater resources. Enforcement of legislation to reduce pollution in the water sector is inadequate. However, significant investment has been made to increase supply and improve water quality. An Integrated Water Resources Management Plan has been developed and actions are being taken to reduce unaccounted for water. Currently, 29% of the population is connected to the sewerage network and there are plans to increase connection to 50% by 2015.
A physical planning framework comprising of strategies, planning guidelines and legislation have been developed and are being implemented. A national digital cadastre is under preparation. Development on Environmentally Sensitive Areas and along the coastline is controlled.
Solid waste management
Efficient waste collection services are provided island-wide. The waste management system is well organised with a network of transfer stations and an engineered sanitary landfill for waste disposal.
Coastal and Marine Resources
In general, coastal water quality is good, but coral cover in the lagoon is about 40%, while in off-lagoon it is about 30%. Policies and strategies have been adopted for better management of coastal and marine resources and a comprehensive legal framework for coastal management is in place. Sand mining has been banned since 2001 and coastal rehabilitation work undertaken to reduce erosion. Marine parks and fishing reserves have also been proclaimed.
Inland biodiversity
Although Mauritius is characterised by a high level of endemism, it has the third most endangered terrestrial flora in the world. The extent of native forest of reasonable quality is less than 2% of the total area of the island. Policies and strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity have been adopted and are at various stages of implementation. A number of projects and programmes for the conservation of terrestrial flora and fauna are being implemented.
Climate change
The institutional framework for climate change is in place and a series of national and sectoral policies and programmes have been initiated to adapt to climate change.
Islets Management
In Mauritius, conservation, management and protection of islets have legislative support and islet-specific strategic management plans have been developed.

Biodiversity 'Biodiversity' or 'biological diversity' is the variety of life on earth and can be thought of in terms of genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem diversity. Biodiversity includes all the different plants, animals and micro-organisms such as bacteria. Biodiversity plays an important role in human wellbeing. It contributes directly and indirectly to the provision of ecosystem goods and services. These are divided into four main categories:
1. Goods (provisioning services) are the products obtained from ecosystems.
2. Cultural services represent non-material benefits delivered by ecosystems.
3. Regulating services are the benefits obtained from regulating ecosystem processes.
4. Supporting services are those necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services.


The native biodiversity of Mauritius:

The native biodiversity of Mauritius is unique and diverse due to several factors, namely its volcanic origin, age and isolation.


Mauritius is characterised by a high level of endemism and species diversity. There are 691 species of indigenous flowering plant, of which 273 are endemic.

The total forest land in Mauritius is 47,181 ha and includes: 3,800 ha mountain reserves, 2,740 ha river reserves, 13 ha private reserves, 2,600 ha plantation forest as well as 15,847 ha of forest scrub and grazing areas. The extent of native forest of reasonable quality (i.e. with more than 50% native plant cover) is currently estimated at approximately 2,600 ha that is, less than 2% of the total area of the island. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Mauritius has the third most endangered terrestrial flora in the world, with around 691 species of indigenous flowering plant, of which 273 are endemic.


Bats are the only native mammal in Mauritius and Rodrigues. There were twelve endemic bird species, out of which nine are threatened. There are 12 native reptile species on Mauritius and 11 are endemic. Seven of these are restricted to remnant populations on the northern offshore islets. The burrowing boa (Bolyeria multicarinata) was last seen in 1975 and it is probably extinct. There are 39 native species of butterfly, of which five are endemic and 125 known native species of land snail of which 43 are already extinct. However to date, there is no conservation strategy for any invertebrate group and there is a general lack of expertise in this field.

Pressures on Mauritius’ native biodiversity:

The increase in population and economic growth are contributing to the loss, degradation and reduction of ecosystems, species and genetic diversity. Economic development has induced forest clearance for settlement, industries and agriculture as well as encroachment on environmentally sensitive areas, such as: mountains and forested areas, hence resulting in biodiversity loss.
Natural disasters, namely cyclones and droughts are important pressures to native biodiversity as the latter is highly fragmented and populations are small, thus decreasing their resilience to weather fluctuations.

Invasive alien species are one of the most serious threats to Mauritian native terrestrial biodiversity. The negative effect of competition for light, water and nutrients with native plants is massive, leading to major reductions in reproductive output, increased mortality and reduced growth rate. Very little information exists on the impact of pests and diseases on Mauritian biodiversity, but it is likely that their effect on ecosystem degradation has been underestimated.


Biodiversity Protection in Mauritius

Biodiversity is one of the national priorities of Government. Conservation, protection and management of native biodiversity as well as offshore islets’ management are being done through collaboration and partnerships by Government departments, private sector organisations, academic institutions, research organizations and NGOs. According to the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, it is estimated that Rs. 200 million is spent annually, in addition to external funding, on the conservation of forests and terrestrial biodiversity.

A number of policies and strategies have been adopted by Government for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. These include the National Environment Policy (2007), National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2006 - 2015), National Invasive Alien Species Strategy and Action Plan (2010), Non-Sugar Sector Strategic Plan (2003-2007), Strategic Options in Crop and Livestock Sector102 (2007 – 2015) and Study on Environmentally Sensitive Areas.


National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2006 – 2015) is the main policy and strategy document relating to biodiversity protection in Mauritius. It includes the following thematic areas: forest, terrestrial, freshwater, coastal, marine and agricultural biodiversity as well as biotechnology and biosafety. The plans have an inbuilt independent review mechanism to enable adaptive utilisation of effort and resources to meet strategic objectives, which are as follows: Establishment of a representative and viable Protected Area Networks; Management of key components of biodiversity and enabling their sustainable use and Maintaining ecosystem services and managing biotechnology and its products.

National Forest Policy

The National Forest Policy was adopted in 2006 and is a statement of Government’s intentions for the development of the forest sector. A National Forest Action Programme is under preparation to implement the national policy.

National Invasive Alien Species Strategy and Action Plan

In line with the Convention on Biological Diversity, a National Invasive Alien Species Strategy and Action Plan (2010-2019) was adopted. It provides a comprehensive and coordinated approach in the management of invasive alien species with a view to minimizing the negative economic, environmental and human health impacts of the species that threaten the ecosystem.

Study on Environmentally Sensitive Areas

The Study on Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) has identified the following terrestrial and freshwater ESAs: marshlands, forests with native content, steep slopes, freshwater wells (boreholes), rivers and streams, lakes and reservoirs and caves. A comprehensive framework for their conservation has been developed.

Management of Nature Reserves, National Park and Botanical Gardens

Mauritius has 12 legally proclaimed protected areas: one National Park, seven Nature Reserves and four reserves, covering a total area of 7,292 ha. Sixteen offshore islets are also formal state protected areas and include eight islets National Park, seven Nature Reserves and one Ancient Monument - covering a total area of 735 ha. Forty three areas of native vegetation have been listed as priority areas for conservation management, whilst twenty areas of lowland native vegetation have been identified as requiring urgent conservation management and additional vegetation surveys.

Propagation of endangered plant species

There are seven nurseries for the propagation of native species, which are managed by Government and the NGO - Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. These nurseries propagate Critically Endangered species for species recovery programmes and also mass produce common native plants for restoration projects.

The Mauritius Seed Bank Project started in 2006 under the Millennium Seed Bank Project and with the collaboration of the Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew), the NPCS and the Mauritius Herbarium (MSIRI). The objectives of the project are to conserve 300 native species, carry out germination tests of rarest native species and train stakeholders on seed collection and storage techniques. Up to 2009, 250 native species have been conserved.

Species recovery programmes for Critically Endangered birds

Captive breeding programmes were established since 1976 to save the Mauritian Kestrel, Pink pigeon and Echo parakeet. Most of the work carried out has been successful and populations of each of the three species have been re-established in the wild. Breeding work has been successfully completed for the Mauritius Fody and the Olive White Eye.

Translocation of reptile project

Efforts are being made to conserve rare endemic reptile species currently confined to offshore islets. In 2006, the NPCS in collaboration with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Mauritian Wildlife Foundation started a programme of translocation of reptiles from Round Island and other rodent-free islets around Mauritius.

Photo gallery Opening ceremony of consultative WG 
14 June 2011
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