Déforestation: une menace pour l’éco-système

La déforestation est un des facteurs provoquant le changement climatique à Maurice. Selon un article de « Ecology and Society », la déforestation a provoqué d’importantes érosions dans l’ile. Durant les années 1850 la déforestation était courante à cause de la colonisation. Cela a causé la perte de forêts tropicales dans l’ile.

Malheureusement, cette pratique néfaste pour l’écosystème perdure encore à ce jour. Maurice fait maintenant face à la perte massive de forêts de mangroves. Cette perte qui contribue à l’augmentation du niveau de la mer. Des études démontrent que cela pourrait éventuellement être périlleux pour les zones côtières dans un premier abord et finir par inonder l’ile.

Fabiola Monty spécialiste de l’environnement chez «DIS-MOI» nous donne plus de détails dans cette entrevue.

Selon l’International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), il y aurait un besoin urgent d’investir dans des solutions environnementales afin de réduire les risques de désastres naturels dans le futur. En 2016, la déforestation a battu son record mondial avec la perte de 30 millions d’hectares de forêts, qui représente le double du rythme des années précédentes. Cette tendance contribue hélas à perte de la bio-diversité dans le monde.

La spécialiste de l’environnement explique que l’abattage des chauves-souris par exemple, est néfaste pour la biodiversité.

D’après la spécialiste, même s’il existe des tentatives de reboisement, les forêts plantées ne peuvent compenser la perte des forêts naturels. Selon elle, la restauration des forêts devrait être une priorité afin de lutter contre ce problème environnemental.

À noter que selon un article publié par la Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation, plus de 300 plantes endémiques mauriciennes en voie de disparition, viennent d’être rapatriées à Maurice après qu’elles aient été envoyées au Conservatoire Botanique National de Brest, en France, il y a 40 ans pour les sauver de l’extinction.

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Sécurité routière: Des mesures pour diminuer le nombre d’accident

2019 a connu de nombreux accidents de routes graves coutant la vie à de nombreuse personne. Maurice compte plus d’une cinquantaine d’accidents de route à ce jour depuis le début de l’année. La situation n’a pas évolué depuis l’an dernier. Les chiffres démontrent que l’année 2018 a été aussi bien meurtrière sur nos routes. On note 141 morts pour l’année 2018. Toutefois, rien que pour les sept premiers mois de l’année dernière, on dénombrait 99 morts, contre 69 morts en 2017. Dans un interview de l’inspecteur Matthur accordé à Télé Plus, ce dernier met en cause les sorties arrosées et l’imprudence des automobilistes.

Cependant des mésures ont été prises récemment afin de réduire cette tendance meurtrière. En décembre 2018, une programme de formation a été mis en place afin de sensibiliser les plus jeunes. Le Ministère du Transport a tenté de former les enseignants des établissements primaires dans un premier abord, les établissements secondaires restent un projet d’avenir. Par ailleurs, en 2018, il y a aussi eu un amendement de La Road Traffic Act incluant ainsi 204 délits. Le montant des amendes a été revu pour des délits tels que l’excès de vitesse. Ceux qui prennent le volant sans permis ou ceux qui prennent la route après que leur permis ait été suspendu devront payer une amende de Rs 50 000 à Rs 100 000.

Plusieurs campagnes de sensibilisation ont été mises en place afin de lutter contre ce problème de société. En janvier de l’année dernière, une campagne sous le thème «Ensam Pa Les Koltar Touy Nou Fami» a été initié par le conseil des ministres dans le cadre de réduire le nombre d’accidents de la route.

Toutefois, aucune de ces mesures de préventions mises en place ne pourra réduire le nombre d’accidents sans qu’elles soient respectées et appliquées par les usagers de la route. Chacun devrait en faire un devoir de respecter et d’appliquer ces mesures de prévoyance. De simples gestes responsables tels que: ne pas prendre d’alcool au volant, ne pas utiliser son téléphone portable au volant ou même respecter la limite de vitesse imposée peut éviter de graves accidents.

Mental Health

Mental Health: A taboo topic that needs to be talked about.

A handful of suicide cases related to mental health among youngsters, aged 18 to 25 years, in Mauritius between the months of January and April in 2019 has led the population to raise questions about the state of mind of our youth. Many youngsters face mild to strong mental illnesses that sometimes remain undiagnosed due to the stigma it usually brings along. According to The Guardian, 9 in 10 people who experience mental health issues report facing stigma and discrimination. This fact remains in Mauritius, where the population does not have a general understanding of the dangers of depression and other illnesses related to mental health.

How common are mental illnesses?

Mental illnesses are often disregarded and not considered as real illnesses. However, according to H.K Bhundoo, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Mauritius, for one person who has committed suicide, there are 25 people who are thinking about taking the same step. According to Dr Laurent Musango, a representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO), 10 to 20 % of adolescents and young adults experience mental health conditions yet, those cases remain underdiagnosed and untreated. Moreover, in a report published by the WHO, it is stated that two third of people who kill themselves are affected by depression. The remaining one third do so due to abrupt circumstances.

Out of 183 countries, Mauritius is ranked 114th in suicide rate. The average number of suicides in 100,000 people is 7.3. At least 10 people have already committed suicide between January and April 2019.

It has also been noticed that the suicide rate among males are slightly higher than that among females.

Mental Health and Suicide among Youngsters

Mental health conditions accounts for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged between 10 to 19 years of age, states the WHO. It has been discovered that half of all mental health conditions start by the age of 14 but most cases remain undetected and untreated. Globally speaking, depression remains one of the leading causes of illness and disability among young adults. Moreover, according to H.K Bhoodun, synthetic drugs, also, has an effect on the mental state of people. When a person consumes synthetic drugs, they are either driven to a state of madness, or they start experiencing suicidal thoughts. As a matter of fact, in 2017, 1000 youngsters were admitted at the Brown Sequard Mental Hospital after consuming synthetic drugs. Furthermore, 500 youngsters were examined at the same hospital in 2017 and it was found that 13% of them were drug addicts while 7% were suffering from depression.

There are nevertheless several organisations such as Befrienders Mauritius who are willing to help people overcome this difficult phase of life. We tried to contact the NGO for further information but for confidentiality reasons, they refused to give more information other than the fact that they are here to help. The University of Mauritius itself has lost three students due to suicide between January and April 2019, despite the presence of counsellors on the campus.

The public needs to understand that mental illnesses are real and are dangerous. This will never be done as long as the stigma and stereotypes around mental health exist. Those need to be eradicated and only then will people suffering from mental illness be able to report about it.

______________________________

TEAM:

Mehryne Annooar
Varun Nathooram
Sarvesh Nikhilesh Gopal

 

Dying corals: How long until they are all gone?

By Mehryne Annooar, Varun Nathooram, Sarvesh Nikhilesh Gopal

The past few decades have been threatening to our corals due to numerous matters such as climate change, global warming and human activities. Due to the heat wave that occured in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the coral reefs of Mauritius experienced an intense process of bleaching which dropped the total percentage of healthy corals by 10 % in only two years. Now, what causes the bleaching? Coral bleaching occurs mainly when the temperature of the ocean floor increases drastically and during this process, the corals fail to adapt to the change in temperature in time. The exceptionally warm water leads to the death of corals and turns them white.

Why does coral bleaching occur?

Small organisms live on the corals, called zooxanthellae (a photosynthetic algae) have a mutualistic relationship with their host. The coral provides the algae with a protected environment and compounds they need for photosynthesis. In return, the algae produce oxygen and help the coral to remove wastes. Most importantly, zooxanthellae supply the coral with glucose, glycerol, and amino acids, which are the products of photosynthesis. The coral uses these products to make proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and produce calcium carbonate.

The deadly 2000s

Between 2005 and 2007, a mild bleaching event occurred but the corals that had been affected by the heatwave of the early 2000s had not yet recovered. Around two years after the mild bleaching event, algal blooms in certain lagoon of the island resulted in the death of corals and fish.

The most important bleaching event that Mauritius experienced was in 2016 where 40% to 50% percent of bleaching was recorded around the island due to a heat wave. During the early months of 2016, the sea-water temperature increased above the usual average which is normally 29℃ causing a mild to severe bleaching according to the Mauritian Oceanography Institute (MOI). The sites that were the most affected by the bleaching event were namely Belle Mare, Flic en Flac and Ile aux Benitiers, where more than 65% of their live corals were partially bleached.

 

An example of coral bleaching (Source: Vox)

Coral bleaching is not the only culprit

Cyclones and rainfall

Between 2009 and 2015, the main cause of coral degradation were due to intense amount of rainfall which led to muddy waters to smother the corals. Flash floods that occurred in 2013 affected the northern regions of the island. In 2015, another flash flood affected the southern region of the island. The muddy water prevented the sunlight and enough oxygen to reach the corals which led to their destruction.

Overfishing and predators

Overfishing and bad fishing practices such as fisherman walking on corals cause the state of the corals to degrade and prevent their growth. Moreover, a specific species of starfish called the Crown of thorns feed on corals which slows down their growth.

A crown of thorn starfish feeding in corals (Source: Reef Magic Education)

Other factors

Persistent increased in fresh water runoffs, reduced salinity, eutrophication (nutrient enrichment), increased sedimentation, erosion and pollution (marine pollution and pollution from inland activities), due to agricultural inputs, coastal development, deforestation, urbanisation and industrialisation.  Ocean acidification due to global warming and coral diseases such as microbes including pathogens, white band diseases and Turpios sponge).

White band disease in coral (Source: marine savers.com)

Why are the corals important?

The Mauritian lagoons are home to more than 160 species of corals. It is a rather big amount if we compare it with other places which have only around 50 species of corals. The reefs exist in shallow waters covering 150 km around the coast of the island. According to Reefs Conservation Mauritius, an NGO that helps with the protection and restoration of corals, the growth rate of the coral colonies varies from 0.5 cm to 7 cm per year  and the reefs of Mauritius are home to more than 4,000 species of fish. In addition to being the habitat of fish, corals also help control the level of carbon dioxide in the ocean by converting it into limestone shells. Moreover, the barrier reefs protect land and humans from natural threats such as tsunamis or sharks. The barrier reefs can significantly slow down the strong currents that are caused by tropical cyclones which would otherwise affect the coastline directly. Furthermore, the corals contribute largely to the Tourism Industry as many tourists visit the island in order to discover the beauty found under our waters.

Saving Corals Through Coral Farming

Coral farming is the process of taking fragments of corals and placing them underwater in “ coral nurseries” in order to allow it to grow into another coral. The process of coral farming is considered as impactful since from one big coral, we can grow many other coral. The process of coral farming is rather fast since as stated by the Professor Ranjeet Baghooli, we can grow 10 coral colonies from one coral colony that can grow in five years. Therefore, coral colonies can increase within a shorter amount of time it would have taken for the coral to grow in its natural habitat.

The process of coral farming is done in three different steps. The first step is to take fragments of healthy corals from bigger coral colonies. The second step is to place and attach the coral fragments in nurseries and wait until their growth. The final step is to place the fully matured coral from the colony into the ocean floor and allow them to grow.

A coral nursery (Source: eli-africa.org)

Coral farming is being done by the Mauritian Institute of Oceanography in Trou aux Biches as well as and NGO named Eco-SUD. The nursery of Eco-SUD is found in the South-East of the island in the surroundings of Ile aux Aigrettes.

Short films by my students

Here are four short films made by my students for the module Aspects of Film Studies. These are the very first films that they have ever made so despite the inevitable flaws, I am quite happy with the outcome as they were done with zero budget, during term time and after only one module. Some of them have been quite creative and very motivated so I hope it was fun and a good learning experience for them.

During the semester, they also each had to edit a trailer for a movie of their choice which you cna discover in the playlist below.

Sleep Paralysis by Ashley Seetannah, Joshna Pandoo, Divya Nandhoo, Lisa David and Hansini Nemchand

Phase II by Divya Okil, Shruti Ramnarain, Meenakshi Ramjus and Kirti Pudaruth

Catfish by Agnes Esther, Alia Dookhy, Benazeer Cadersaib and Nir Chetamun

Redemption by Sarvesh Gopal, Thibault Francois, Vidushi Chamroo and Parvin Chiniah

Playlist of trailers

Portraits of Mauritians by students

!Warning! Long post!

I recently published the post entitled “Portraits de Mauriciens par les étudiants” showcasing my students’ assignments in Broadcast and Digital Journalism/Reporting. The idea to do this assignment came to me when I was seeing our local media houses preparing to publish a lot about the 50th anniversary of our country’s independence about a month before the anniversary date of the 12 March 2018. Most of them were celebrating well-known people, in particular people who have been and are still in the limelight within the short history of our nation.

So, I wanted to do something different that would be complementary: portraits of at least 50 ‘ordinary’ Mauritian citizens, with a special focus on what I call the ‘non-elites’, that is, people who have never been in the limelight or barely. People who have contributed something to our society in their ‘modest’ capacity. The idea was to show that a nation is not just made up of elites, it’s also about the silent masses. I thus asked the students to find people who, despite their ‘unfavourable’ origins or life difficulties, have done or are doing their part. The objective was to try and give a little more voice to the voiceless.

Students were free to make proposals provided they followed the philosophy outlined above. There were no other content restrictions. In fact, I was experimenting to see if they could naturally come up with enough diversity in terms of gender representation and geographical location. More importantly, I was expecting students to stay away from the complacency of rehashing stuff already churned out by mainstream media.

I have to say that in this module, I usually ask students to produce radio news bulletins in the first semester and video news bulletins in the second semester. Somehow, I had been battling with getting them to do the usual reporting stuff by the beginning of the second semester. So, what could I do to raise their enthusiasm? I exposed the idea of the 50 portraits and they all seemed keen to do the assignment.

How did it go?

The bad: In some ways, it did not go as well as I would have liked.

Deadlines: The objective was to get the videos online by mid-March. Each student had to propose and produce 2 mini-portraits (1 per fortnight). Needless to say that the deadlines were never met fully. Some made a special effort but would be constrained by either mundane or technical difficulties such as securing appointments, persuading people to let them in, difficult shooting location conditions, lack of technical capabilities…

The talking heads: I especially did not want the ‘talking heads interview’ style. Students were supposed to bring in enough visual material to intercut with the interviewees so as illustrate their statements and to avoid monotony. Some students failed to do so.

Complacency: Like many journalists, some students were complacent and chose members of their own family or friends as subjects, although, one could argue, why not if they are interesting enough, which some of them were. With two student cohorts making up a total of 28, this was kind of inevitable.

Poor technical quality: Despite talking extensively about the need for stable images, smooth camera movements if any and sober transitions, there were still many shaky camera stills (!), shaky camera movements and dubious transitions.

I listened to myself often reprimanding students and felt sometimes depressed about the whole project which was supposed to raise everybody’s enthusiasm. I was especially annoyed when they came back with gaps in their interviews such as not getting basic information or not asking obvious follow-up questions. I guess that’s also because too many of our mainstream media people just don’t ask follow-up questions. I am particularly annoyed that many interviews start with “Tell me about you” and end with “What’s your message?” with nothing much in between.

The good: In many other ways, I was in for pleasant surprises.

Gender balance and age groups: There was some balance in gender distribution. In terms of age groups, there was a majority of middle-age people, a fair share of young ones, and a few retired persons. One would have imagined that being given that it was the 50th anniversary of our country, there would be a tendency to look for people aged 70+ as witnesses of that time. I was glad this was not the case.

White vs. blue collars: In terms of professional categories, most of the interviewees can be classified as blue-collars, with a few straddling both white and blue-collar categories like the student farmer and the well-known shopkeeper politician.

The nice weirdos and outliers: There were some gems like the people doing ‘ordinary’ but useful things like mending shoes on the street or unique characters such as the tailor cum coconut seller who sings karaoke in Port-Louis. There’s also the very old lady who still works as ‘bonne à tout faire’ and the outspoken and dynamic lady who sells pickled fruits.

Despite this being about Mauritians, one student chose to interview an Indian tailor. His account in Creole of how migrant workers are treated in textile factories was quite poignant despite being sometimes difficult to understand because of his accent.

We also had two Greek Erasmus students who joined in the class. They fully participated and were quick to identify potential interviewees. These were the only interviews conducted in English as the students did not understand Creole.

The good/bad
A company stole a student’s video about former professional footballer Eric Philogène who is now a skipper and posted it on Facebook as its own without given any credit to the student (they even added their logo and credits to the video). Luckily, when he complained, they removed it. The good in this? It means they liked the video and thought it was well done. Though I fail to see how come professional people could do such a thing, at least they reacted positively.

Caveats
For some of my students, this was their first attempt at video production and we had wasted a lot of weeks in the beginning of semester due to the Berguitta cyclone, torrential rains and public holidays. Together with my technician Ketan, we had to give a crash course on handling the camera and tripod and also on how to do the video editing because they had not yet completed a colleague’s module on audiovisual production.

We also have a lack of adequate audio recording equipment at the Mediacom Studio so we have to find tricks to compensate (backup recording with phone or audio recorder, raising audio levels in iMovie) and this obviously does not always turn out well.
[Side note: if there are any sponsors willing to donate for upgrading our material, please do get in touch on chanssc@uom.ac.mu]

End words
It was an exhausting project, both physically and mentally. But if this can get just a fraction of the students to get moving, try out some different stuff, I guess I have to be happy.

Also, I have to consider that most of our student cohorts come from lower and lower middle class families with limited means in terms of transport, personal equipment and cultural exposure. There were no sexily shot or edited videos for this reason. Had I been working at a private TEI with privileged students, the outputs would probably have been more glossy and glamorous. That would have been too easy maybe…

Portraits de Mauriciens par les étudiants

À l’occasion du 50ème anniversaire de l’indépendance de Maurice, nos étudiants avaient pour tâche de réaliser des mini-portraits de Mauriciens. L’idée est de ne pas se contenter de couvrir des personnages déjà connus mais plutôt de donner la parole à des “citoyens ordinaires”, de découvrir leur petite histoire et leur petit quotidien. Car, les petits quotidiens sont aussi importants collectivement et constituent la structure même d’une société…

Voir la playlist des portraits en images ici

Étant donné que c’est un exercice pédagogique destiné à permettre aux apprenants d’expérimenter avec la vidéo, la qualité des productions est inégale (avec une distribution normale inhérente à toutes les situations d’apprentissage). Le but du jeu est de mettre toutes les vidéos en ligne afin de motiver les étudiants qui sont tous notés dans le cadre de leur cursus universitaire.

Les commentaires constructifs qui prennent en compte l’objectif pédagogique sont les bienvenus.

Nous espérons pouvoir mettre en ligne plus de 50 mini-portraits d’ici fin avril 2018.

Ci-dessous une sélection de quelques portraits en images:










Voir la playlist des portraits en images ici