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Professor Christian Bueger: The lessons from the Wakashio oil spill need to be learned

The lessons from the Wakashio oil spill need to be learned

Contacted by Aufait, Professor Christian Bueger says the oil spilled by the MV Wakashio on the coast of Mauritius is a global tragedy. According to him, Mauritius’s government should have been better prepared with the range of international programs; the country had benefited. 

The Japanese ship, MV Wakashio, has spilled around 1,000 tons of oil in the South East of Mauritius. It is equivalent to nearly half the size of an Olympic swimming pool. 

This tragedy caught the attention of the whole world. All eyes are on how Mauritius manages one of the largest oil spills in the Indian Ocean.

“It’s a global environmental tragedy that affects us all,” says to Aufait, Christian Bueger, Professor of international relations at the University of Copenhagen. The latter has heavily publicly criticized the Mauritian authorities for its management of this crisis. 

“Our common marine heritage is under threat. The disaster is also an opportunity to ensure that these kinds of spills do not happen anymore, neither in Mauritius, nor in the Indian Ocean, nor elsewhere”, he explains. 

The lessons need to be learned how the reaction to spills can be improved in a short time, but also how we can stop them from happening in the first place, he adds. 

He has publicly asked for an independent inquiry on the Mauritian government’s response to this oil spill. “An independent public investigation must be launched into the government and industry response to this disaster”, he wrote in a column published on the internet. 

Professor Bueger, a director at maritime security network SafeSeas, says Mauritius should have been better prepared to face this catastrophe. “In essence, the government benefited from a range of programs, so could have been prepared if that risk would have been taken seriously,” he argues. 

The African nation was a core beneficiary in two multi-million-dollar World Bank projects. Namely, the US$4-million Western Indian Ocean Island Oil Spill Contingency Plan from 1998 and 2003 and the US$24-million Western Indian Ocean Marine Highway Development and Coastal and Marine Contamination Prevention Project from 2007-2012.

“To give you just one example, Finland, as I learned yesterday at the diaspora webinar, has 8000 trained volunteers, which stand ready to respond to a spill. WWF coordinates that. How many trained personnel and volunteers were available in Mauritius? How many in Seychelles?”, he asks.