Monday, November 23, 2009

You Say Green, We See Red

The latest blurb is about the "greening" of Mauritius. One is left wondering whether the disconnect between official discourse and what is actually being proposed and achieved could get any more depressing. I would rather believe that it is a feeling I share with the silent majority.

We may derive some comfort from being spared the echo chamber. We may also alleviate our desolation through the awareness of being taken for yet another ride. But the truth is that so long as civil society and the media remain helpless in deterring the outsourcing of policy-making to vested interests, we are stuck.

If the propaganda machine is to be trusted, Germans - widely hailed for their successful implementation of sustainable policies - would be flocking to Mauritius to learn from our mavericks. And, instead of initiating the Hangzhou-Singapore Eco-Park project in China, Singapore-based small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) would be drooling to set up joint ventures in Mauritius to deploy their innovative green technologies.

In fact, far-sighted governments worldwide are mandating regulations and allowing tax rebates to reduce energy consumption and cut carbon emission. Anyone who has visited the Salon de la Maison this year would have been gutted by the shortage of green products and services on offer. Not that local SMEs are markingly risk-averse, it is simply because they do not get any incentive.

That is in sharp contrast with Reunion Island which is aiming at boosting with photovoltaics the 36% of electricity it already produces from renewables. Recently, with strong winds gusting in Spain, wind-generated plants supplied 53% of total electricity needs for several hours. Meanwhile, Mauritian governments do not feel least bothered for increasing our dependency on coal-generated electricity from 6.1% in 1998 to 44.1% in 2008.

This brand of watermelon environmentalism - a lifestyle at odds with green pretensions - is not only deceptive but not sustainable either. Green Mauritius cannot happen until leaders come to terms with the fact that planning a coherent green strategy will enable Mauritius to produce and consume less energy, which supports socio-economic development, because money is freed up for other projects, while promoting energy security and environmental sustainability.

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