Mauritius is a small island of volcanic origin in the sub tropical region. Over the ages a unique fauna and flora have evolved with no interference from man, nature was the sole agent of change of the environment. The subsequent arrival of man and the establishment of permanent human settlements have had drastic effect on the environment. The disappearance of the flightless Dodo early in the 17th century, the gradual shrinkage of the original forest cleared away for agriculture, settlements and roads, the introduction of alien species (animal and vegetal) which have successfully competed with the indigenous ones are obvious examples.
The presence of numerous rivers and streams, abundant rainfall, fertile land and a productive lagoon have enabled the island to support a sizeable population through agriculture and artisanal fishery ever since the 17th century. For a very long time the economy of the island was based mainly upon agriculture and fisheries. This combination helps to explain why up to half of the island is under sugar cane cultivation with more than half of the population rural, and why the coastline has always been dotted with numerous fishing villages.
The last fifteen years have seen a spectacular increase in the standard of living of the population together with a change in the consumption patterns. This fact coupled with a significant increase in population over the past two decades, mean that new demands are being thrust on the environment: new lands needed for property development, roads and factories, a greater output from agriculture, an increased demand for fish from the lagoon and fishing banks.
It is clear that, like any other country, Mauritius is at a crossroads. The environment cannot be taken for granted any longer. There is an urgent need to manage the impacts of development and population growth on the local environment in view of achieving sustainability.
The sections below describe the resources of the island and the different environmental stresses development and population growth have resulted in.
source: Institute For Environmental and Legal Studies