The Association Des Hoteliers et Restaurateurs Ile Maurice (“AHRIM”), an association of hotels and restaurants in Mauritius, and the Sea Users Association, an association of civilians, recently won an important appeal against the grant of an Environmental Impact Assessment (“EIA”) licence to a fish farming project by the Minister of Social Security, National Solidarity, and Environment and Sustainable Development.
In allowing the appeal, the Tribunal emphasised the shortcomings of the conditions attached to the granting of the EIA licence, the inadequacy of the risk mitigating measures proposed by the promoter, and the insufficiency of information provided by the promoter in its EIA report.
The Tribunal stressed the absence of knowledge on the increased shark risk attached to the proposed fishing project. In this regard, the Tribunal held that the precautionary principle adopted by Mauritius ought to be applied in the absence of concrete data on shark risk and shark circulation in Mauritius. The Tribunal questioned how the ministries involved could have been satisfied that an EIA licence could be granted in the absence of knowledge on the risk of increased shark circulation around the proposed project and what effect this would have.
The Tribunal further ruled that the decision to grant the EIA licence was tainted in view of the conflict of interest of the Ministry of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping who, despite its involvement in the project in providing land-based operations and facilities to the promoter, exercised its voting rights for the recommendation in favour of the fish farming project and was to play a role in the subsequent monitoring of the said project.
This judgment is an important step in the development of environmental law in Mauritius.
An appeal is currently pending against the judgment of the Environment Land Use Appeal Tribunal.
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