Mauritian Cardinal Bemoans Ecological Disaster, Appreciates Efforts Toward Biodiversity

Oil leaking from a Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio, that ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius on July 25.

The head of the Catholic Church Mauritius, the Indian Ocean island nation, has bemoaned the ecological disaster that befell the country a couple of weeks ago after a fuel spill in its waters.

In his statement published on the website of the Diocese of Port Louis Tuesday, August 11, Maurice Cardinal Piat expresses his appreciation for the solidarity of the civil society members fostering biodiversity. 

On July 25, a Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio hit an underground reef Southeast of Mauritian waters and got stuck, leading to a fuel spill that environmentalists say has endangered surrounding marine life.

“I would like to say how touched I am, along with all Mauritians, by the ecological disaster that occurred in the beautiful lagoon of Mahébourg,” the Bishop of Port Louis Diocese, Cardinal Piat says in his August 11 statement.

The Cardinal, a member of the Religious Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), adds, “I am thinking particularly of the people who live in Mahébourg, Rivière-des-Créoles and in the villages on the east coast from Pointe d'Esny to Quatre Sœurs.”


“Many families are afflicted by a pestilential and persistent odor; fishermen and all those who earn their living on the sea, suffer particularly,” the Cardinal says.

He further expresses his concerns over the “ecological treasures of the bay, of the islets, of the coast which have been seriously damaged.”

Following the July 25 disaster, Mauritius Prime Minister, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency on Thursday, August 6 and appealed for international help as fuel continues to leak from the hull of the ship, which is reportedly stuck in a sensitive area.

In response to the Prime Minister’s appeal, France’s President, Emmanuel Macron has announced that his government is sending specialists to help the island nation manage the spill.

“When biodiversity is in danger, there is an urgent need to act. You can count on our support,” President Macron has been quoted as saying.

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The international environmental NGO, Greenpeace International, has since cautioned that the spill is “likely to be one of the worst ecological crises Mauritius has ever seen.”

"Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d'Esny and Mahebourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius's economy, food security and health," the leadership of the organization said in a statement dated August 7.

The spill is a blow to the island’s tourism sector, which is recovering from the impact of COVID-19 restrictions that have seen a drop in the number of tourists visiting the country’s beaches, reefs, coastal lagoons and mountainous interior such as Black River Gorges National Park.

“In the midst of this pain shared by so many and so many people, I would also like to salute this beautiful outpouring of active and enterprising solidarity which has manifested itself in order to save what it was still possible to save,” Cardinal Piat says in his August 11 online message.

In the message, he thanks those involved in salvaging the situation and fostering biodiversity and “all those who participated and continue to participate with admirable enthusiasm and perseverance.”


“It is beautiful and it is encouraging to see civil society awakened in this way and to see that it is animated by a beautiful ecological conscience,” the 79-year-old Cardinal who recently celebrated his Silver Priestly Ordination Jubilee says.

Such an awakening, he continues, “reminds us how vital the role of civil society is in a country and how it should be taken into account by economic and political decision-makers.”

The Cardinal invites his compatriots who wish to volunteer in efforts to salvage the island’s biodiversity to register with the country’s Ministry of Environment.

“I appeal to all Christians who can and especially to young people. Let them not hesitate to get wet for their country,” Cardinal Piat says in reference to efforts to foster biodiversity.