Address by Ms Amanda Serumaga, UNDP Resident Representative for Mauritius and Seychelles, at the Relaunch Workshop of the UNDP supported and GEF-funded ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity into the Management of the Coastal Zone in the Republic of Mauritius’ pro

March 8, 2022

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Hon. Mr Kavydass Ramano, Minister of Environment, Solid Waste Management and Climate Change

Hon. Maneesh Gobin, the Attorney General and Minister of Agro Industry and Food Security

Hon. Mr Sudheer Maudhoo, Minister of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping

Mr R. Bunjun, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping

Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen

Good morning 

Today’s gathering for the relaunching of the Mainstreaming Biodiversity in the Management of Coastal Zone project has been a long time coming, and is one in which I am very pleased to participate. The workshop sets a milestone following what has been, without a doubt, a challenging few years.  

Allow me to begin by thanking you, Minister Maudhoo and PS Bunjun’ s technical leadership working with the UNDP to coordinate and organise this event. I am especially pleased to have 3 key Ministers present in what UNDP hopes will set the stage for a renewed conversation and platform for engagement between all stakeholders and interests. 

As we all know, the Mainstreaming Biodiversity project is funded by the Global Environment Facility through the United Nations Development Programme and implemented by the Ministry of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping.  

Following finalisation of project identification in August 2013, approval by GEF the Council in February 2014, and agreeing the project document in June 2016 for a duration of five years; it was however, it was only in May/June 2017 almost 4 years later, that implementation commenced with the establishment of a project implementation unit.    

The stated objective of this project is to mainstream the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services into coastal zone management, and into the operations and policies of the tourism and physical development sectors in the Republic of Mauritius. 

This objective is to be achieved through a ‘land- and seascape wide’ integrated management approach based on an Environmental Sensitive Areas’ (ESAs) inventory and assessment. 

Furthermore, the project is to be implemented in collaboration with stakeholders from a broad range of sectors and interests including communities, line ministries and civil society. 

You will agree with me that this cross section of interests working together to address a matter so complex and fundamental to development and environment questions was never going to be easy. 

And indeed, less than two (2) years into implementation the project underwent a Social and Environmental Compliance review and investigation following concerns raised by a stakeholder. 

The SECU investigation highlighted some positive elements, which included the contribution to mainstreaming the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services into coastal zone management through integrated management of the land and seascape. It also confirmed that UNDP understood and complied with our Social and Environmental Standards (SES), ensuring stakeholder participation through extended and wide-ranging consultations during project design and implementation.

The investigation also found, however, that there were clear opportunities to do more to support conservation and effective management of fragile coastal zones in the Republic of Mauritius and to ensure that the project remains relevant and in compliance with the Social and Environmental Standards. 

The SECU specifically recommended that the project should raise its level of ambition, and support the adoption of legislation for biodiversity protection. The report also recommended that the project risk level is upgraded to reflect the programmatic, coordination and environmental complexity of the project. 

The investigation process was concluded in March 2021, 9 months to project end.  And the UNDP Administrator’s decision includes a commitment to convene stakeholders to inform them of the decisions and to reset and relaunch the project.

Ladies and gentlemen

So, what happened over the last 2 years and what has it meant to the project? During the investigation period, the project was somewhat limited to implementation of activities already ongoing. And then came the COVID 19 pandemic in January 2021, and the MV Wakashio Oil Spill in August 2020, both of which affected the main project areas at Blue Bay Marine Park, the Grand Port Fishing Reserve and the Pointe D’Esny Ramsar site. 

The project pivoted to respond to the crises at community and government levels. UNDP and other funds were coordinated and provided to NGOs, some of whom have joined the workshop today, to implement sustainable alternative livelihood projects which benefitted the community.

Ladies and gentlemen

While the project has completed a considerable set of activities over the last four years; there remain matters outstanding that have necessitated a project extension and this relaunch to support completion. Indeed, it is anticipated that this workshop will serve as an opportunity to reset and reenergize the necessary conversations to see this work through. 

For component one, for which the Ministry of Environment, Solid Waste Management and Climate Change is the Responsible Party, there remains the issue of Environmental Sensitive Areas’ (ESAs) inventory and assessment. While I have been made to understand there is some progress, we do look forward to the guidance and leadership of the Ministry to support conclusion of matter by project closure in December 2022. 

I have also been made to understand that the project has produced, with the help of consultants and stakeholders, a review of the institution managing marine protected areas, management plans for six Fishing Reserves, and a financial strategy to increase sustainability of Marine Protected Areas. Where there is agreement, these plans should be prioritised for implementation to strengthen efficiency and accountable management of marine biodiversity. 

One of the indicators of this project towards SDG 14, is the increase of the marine protected area. I have been made to understand that the mandated ministry has earmarked these areas for proclamation. I would appeal to the Minister of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping to make proclamation a priority.  

Regarding legislation, I am also aware of the pending amendment of the Environment Protection Act to provide the conservation mandate for wetlands to the Ministry of Agro Industry and Food Security. In addition, we are informed that a draft Wetland Bill has been prepared. We do hope that these key pieces of legislation can be this can be enacted with the due diligence and consultation, and we rely on the leadership of the Ministry of Food Security and Food Industry in this respect. 

UNDP remains committed to supporting platforms for engagement and consultation in this regard, and we are hopeful that these pieces of work can be completed by project end in December 2022. 

Ladies and gentlemen

I shall also like to put on record the project results in Rodrigues. In particular, the support to SEMPA has served to strengthen this unit’s capabilities by provision of new surveillance equipment and a new management plan, pending consideration by the executive council. Allow me to also commend the Agro forestry scheme in Rodrigues that has allowed community level benefits from micro Agro forestry, which aims to minimise soil erosion and consequent lagoon sedimentation and siltation.

In closing, allow me to acknowledge the hard work by the line Ministries and the UNDP team to bring us together for this relaunch.  And thank you to all those government institutions, private sector and civil society partners and stakeholders not only for implementation of the project to date; but also, for taking the time to come and have a conversation and to be part of a reset of a new beginning.

 I am hopeful that open dialogue, positive engagement and a willingness to collaborate and listen to each other’s views and perspectives will be what underpins and informs the final year of this project; and lead to a successful implementation and closure. 

Thank you for your kind attention.

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