Monday, March 19, 2012

As the taps run dry in Mauritius

Naseem Ackbarally in IPS: Rani Murthy, a public officer who lives in Plaines Wilhems, central Mauritius, wakes at three every morning to wait for the water tanker from the Central Water Authority so that she can collect water for cooking and household chores. "This is not a life. Waking at three to collect water, doing household work before seven, and then going to work. I come back at night, look after the kids, prepare food, have dinner, go to sleep around midnight and get up again at three. If not, we will stay without water," says Murthy.

But scenes of people queuing for water are recurrent on several parts of the island. As local reservoirs run dry, running water has become a luxury here. The shortage has had widespread implications across the island as farmers, particularly in the north, can now only cultivate a fraction of their land. Kreepallou Sunghoon, secretary of the Small Planters Association, says farmers who used to cultivate vegetables on 10 to 15 hectares pieces of land only use less than a third of that now.

...Before the lack of rains Mauritius was already classified as a water-stressed country. According to United Nations standards a water-stressed country has a per capita availability of less than 1,700 cubic metres. Mauritius only had a per capita consumption of 1,044 cubic metres.

The country has been experiencing a water shortage for months and it seems as if there are no signs of it abating, as the anticipated summer rains are yet to arrive with less than a month of the season left. Normally, the whole island gets two-thirds of its usual rainfall or 1,344 mm from November to April.

"More than half of the summer period is gone and we got only 373 mm of rain over the whole island. It always rains a lot between January and March, but this year we got only 88 mm of the normal 261 mm in January," says Rajen Mungra, director of the Mauritius Meteorological Services...

The Mare aux Vacoas, the largest reservoir in Mauritius, shot by Mip130916, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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