L'Express (Port Louis)

1 November 2012

Mauritius: Last Year's Men

opinion

In the twilight zone of Mauritian politics, truth really is stranger than fiction.

Over the past week, we've been treated several times to the distinctly surreal experience of having not one, but two, talking heads of so-called socio-cultural organisations lecturing us on energy policy.

Banish the thought that they may have any interests in the completion of CT Power project, they're just weighing in on the debate because they really believe in long-term future of coal. The trouble of course is they want to impose this choice on the whole country, a country decreed by the prime minister to be a sustainable island. Bewilderingly, the same prime minister used a religious event to throw his weight behind a project that is at the antipodes of his own vision.

No wonder the country's such a mess. We're told one thing and subjected to its complete opposite. And that's where facts come in handy. First off, the project is the fruit of an unsolicited bid, something that no amount of sectarian innuendo can camoufl age. So, if it's indeed true that the country urgently needs this project, how come the authorities never actually saw the need of launching a tender exercise for a coal-fi red power station in the fi rst place? Was it only when CT Power ambled into town that government thought to itself, "Oh yes, we need a bit of that action?"

If that's the case, we might as well get rid of our energy policy once and for all. Government's very own Long-Term Energy Policy 2009- 2025 states: "Hence, in new bagasse coal power generation confi gurations, government strategy is to maximize the amount of energy generated from available bagasse, while minimizing the use of coal." How a coal-only power plant fi ts into this "power generation configuration" one can only guess.

And then of course there are the concerns of the region's inhabitants regarding pollution issues. These cannot be waved away simply because socio-cultural organizations say they should. It might interest these groups to know that the air in the region is already the most polluted on the island. A research paper by the University of Mauritius is crystal clear: "Due consideration must be given by the relevant authorities before introducing new plants in this sector. The northern region, particularly the northwest, have most of the hotspots. These regions are among the most densely populated and are therefore more exposed."

Yet the biggest fallacy being peddled is that CT Power has a right to exist simply because Independent Power Producers (IPPs) also use coal and are ripping government off in the process. Two wrongs don't make a right. By all means, the authorities should sort their issues out with the IPPs. What they shouldn't do however is sell current and future generations down the river just because it's politically expedient.

So stop listening to last year's men and decide what's best for the country. Is that really so hard?

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