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Roches Noires Smart City Faces PML’s Environmental Impact Critiques



Roches Noires Smart City Faces PML's Environmental Impact Critiques
Image source: Le Mauricien

The Roches Noires case has been ongoing for months, and a response from the authorities is still pending. While the fate of the Roches Noires Smart City (RNSC) project, led by French group PR Capital, remains uncertain, the protesters are not backing down.

Platform Moris Lanvironnman (PML), one of the first non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to raise the alarm, has just released its comments on the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report submitted by the developer.

The hundred-page report was sent on November 10. Other groups, including the ecosocialist party Rezistans ek Alternativ, the NGO Protecting the Ecosystem of Roches Noires, the NGO MRU2025, and the Mauritian Collective for Roches Noires, have also done the same.”We had objected to the first EIA report and the project, and we object again for the following reasons,” PML says in a press release summarizing the 135 pages of submitted comments.

According to the NGO, “PR Capital’s EIA report contains fundamental flaws and is therefore non-compliant with the provisions of Section 18, subsections 18 (2) (d) to 18 (2) (o) of the Environment Protection Act 2002 as subsequently amended,” and argues that this massive project will harm the residents of the area and the country.

Furthermore, PML explains that this project does not meet the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, and reiterates its call to react and act before any work is done on the “sensitive site” that includes the “last remnants of Mauritius’ coastal forest.”PML emphasizes that “our comments are based on the concept and policy approach of a hierarchy of project mitigation options.

We therefore favor the option at the top of this hierarchy: Avoid rather than the one advocated by the developers, which is to minimize the impacts associated with this deforestation. Avoiding means not carrying out this project: not destroying a forest that contains, moreover, the last remnants of the original coastal forest of Mauritius to create a city with two golf courses.

“Furthermore, PML questions the developer’s real intentions. “Despite mentioning it, this project would not even be eligible for financing according to the International Finance Corporation guidelines on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance standards, nor those of other multilateral financial institutions,” the NGO argues.

Moreover, it also laments that several flaws identified in the first EIA report submitted by PR Capital have not been addressed.Several identified flaws:”These flaws include a lack of basic data; deficient analyses of the project’s impacts and proposed mitigation measures; inconsistencies and omissions.

One of these omissions concerns a parallel report on the hydrogeological conditions of the site mentioned but not included in the EIA report.” Furthermore, PML regrets that the Economic Development Board (EDB) has not exercised due diligence regarding PR Capital Ltd.’s financial solvency, financial negotiations, and arrangements.

The protesters also want to remind that the developer plans to deforest more than 80% of the site for urbanization and to develop “golf tourism.” PML insists: “The RNSC is an urbanization project through deforestation of over 80% of a forest that holds the last remnants of Mauritius’ original coastal forest and several other vital natural ecosystems for Mauritius’ resilience against climate change.

The impacts presented as positive in the EIA report are actually negative impacts, while the impacts of proposed engineering solutions to ‘minimize’ the negative impacts of deforestation and destruction of natural ecosystem functioning are not evaluated.

If the RNSC goes ahead, an interconnected ecosystem much larger than the RNSC site will be compromised, with no gains of any kind other than for the developers. We are all concerned!”

Harmful: Additionally, MRU2025 has also submitted its public comments in the form of scientific reports, including the Socio-ecological and Territorial Assessment of Roches Noires VCA commissioned by young Mauritian researcher Raphael Merven and the EIA Gap Analysis by Claude Lahausse de Lalouvière.

The ecosocialist party Rezistans ek Alternativ (ReA) has also presented its public comments on this land development project during a visit to Roches Noires. ReA spokesperson David Sauvage advocated for “a compulsory acquisition under Article 8 of the Constitution of the site by the government, with active participation of the residents who will be the decision-makers to establish a nature park or even an ecological site for restoration and development of tourist activities.”

That being said, comments abound in the same direction: a real estate project of this magnitude can only be harmful to the region and its residents.PR Capital defends itself:In an article published last month, PR Capital representatives, including Nicolas de Chalain, and the project holder’s advisor, Jean Beauvillain, a geographer and expert in urban planning and development of small equilibrium metropolises, spoke about the project.

“It is a sustainable development project and of general interest for the territory where it is located and for the country with a commitment to the government for the environment,” explained Jean Beauvillain at the time.

The RNSC project will be divided into two poles: the first with the construction of villas, golf courses, shops, and others, and the second environmental with the creation of a park and research and development offices around the environment and conservation, open to local academics, researchers, and students.

Jean Beauvillain emphasized that, “in fact, only 10.5% of the overall project will be used for buildings, and everything else will be green, even greener than it is today.”

Recap of events: This is an affair that dates back a long way. The first attempts go back to 2005 when a South African company, Elan Group, received an IRS certificate for Roches Noires Resorts and Residence Ltd. On October 9, 2006, Elan Group decided to withdraw to make way for a consortium led by Jean Marie Bain.

The project obtained its EIA permit and IRS certificate on November 13, 2007.On February 11, 2010, the consortium informed the authorities of its financial difficulties and applied to sell 90 hectares to local investors for the construction of a subdivision.

The request was denied. The company went into administration, and in April 2011, Messrs. Bonieux and Lutchumun were appointed as “receivers and managers” of Roches Noires Resort and Residence Ltd. On April 5, 2012, the company lost its IRS certificate.

In 2013, a Chinese group YIHE Group created Island Summer Palace Ltd, an IRS project in three phases: the first being a hotel; a commercial area, a business zone, a convention center, and a marina; the second a golf course, golf villas, and a clubhouse, and the third low-side residential units, a retirement village, and an education hub.

All of this for a total of Rs 44 billion. In 2015, the Roches Noires case was the subject of a parliamentary question posed by the then opposition leader, Paul Bérenger, and answered by the Minister of Finance, Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo.

In the latter’s response, all projects were cited, including the project to build a second runway that was eventually abandoned the same year. In recent years, the latest owners to date, the YIHE Group, have faced financial difficulties… ultimately making way for PR Capital.

It is worth noting that the BPCE and ABSA banks hold the assets of this site.At the beginning of the year, a consortium of local conglomerates, including Eclosia, IBL, Currimjee, Scott, and others, formed the Mauritian Collective for Roches Noires, proposing the construction of a nature park.

At the same time, PML issued a statement highlighting the absence of the site’s hydrogeological report.

Source: Le Mauricien

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