Land is a scarce resource in Mauritius. With one of the highest population densities in the world, we must be particularly judicious in its use. While politicians bemoan our lack of extractable and therefore finite resources, they ignore one of our most valuable: fertile agricultural land. Instead, they seek an instant kickback by permitting the destruction of an eternally productive resource and turning it into short-lived business parks and unused villas for foreigners. Just one more example of killing a goose that lays golden eggs.

Prudent land use is vital to our future survival

Once demand for oil outstrips supply, its price will rise inexorably. How will Mauritius compete for it against giant consumers like the USA, China and India? Our island will grind to a halt unless we find alternatives. Until we have invested in renewable power generation and an electrified transport system, we will need to turn our sugar cane fields to the production of biofuels to run our cars and buses.

Not far into the future we will be driven towards energy self-sufficiency. At the same time, as the cost of intercontinental transportation increases, it will become less viable to import our food. Hence, if we do not become self-sufficient in food production, we will starve, although rioting will have killed many of us first. Clearly, the demands on our agricultural land are only going to increase. So how can we continue to justify covering it with tarmac and concrete? It is a crime against future generations.

We are squandering the pounds, but what about the pennies?

Has anyone counted how many plots of residential land are seemingly abandoned and overgrown ? Many are held as investments by those who care more about rates of return than the quality of life of their neighbours. A minuscule investment would have prevented them deteriorating into dumping grounds for domestic waste, a haven for vermin and a breeding sites for mosquitoes. Neglect has turned them into both eyesore and health hazard. Now that we are getting more serious about waste, is it not time to consider such wasted land?

Here our local authorities can show our national government the meaning of good governance. If they take responsibility for clearing up residential land they can light three beacons of hope with a single flame:

  • Increase revenues by fining owners of “abandoned” land
  • Increase employment by paying people to clean and maintain it
  • Increase food production by planting it with fruit trees and vegetables

Building resilient communities and a self-sufficient society that lasts longer than the lifetimes of our current politicians is not rocket science. We just need to find some people with the ability to look past their noses just a little way into the future. We must simply elect trustworthy citizens with the integrity to act on what they see with common sense, for the common good. Is that really so hard to do?