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Disasters ripping Africa’s tourism industry apart

Cleaning up after Mauritius oil spill


The novel coronavirus disease appears not to be the only challenge facing Africa’s tourism industry – at least not on the face of recent happenings. While the pandemic has led to huge losses in funds for many tourist hot spots, other disasters are making the situation worse in some parts of the continent. 

Kenya and Mauritius have been the worst hit by these disasters, as these nations come to terms with the devastating effects of fire and an oil spillage.

Kenya’s vibrant tourism industry has already lost US$1 billion in revenue through COVID-19 and a fire that gutted the Tsavo National Park. For Mauritius, however, the waters surrounding the island have been contaminated, and there is an environmental catastrophe floating on the horizon. 

Bunker oil in Mauritian waters

The Government of Mauritius was dealt a heavy blow when a bulk carrier ran aground off the south-eastern coast of the island. With the carrier leaking, oil soon filled the waters, prompting fears of not just pollution but also an environmental catastrophe.

“The ministry has been informed … that there is a breach in the vessel MV Wakashio and there is a leakage of oil,” a statement from the environment ministry said.

“The public in general, including boat operators and fishers, are requested not to venture on the beach and in the lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny and Mahébourg.

The ship was carrying 200 tonnes of diesel and 3,800 tonnes of bunker fuel, Al Jazeera reports.

Even worse, Mauritius is not well equipped for this disaster, having never faced anything of this magnitude.

“This is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind, and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem,” said the minister of fisheries and water resources, Sudheer Maudhoo.

Mauritius boasts some of the finest coral reefs in the world and is known for its seas, its food and tourist attractions on the island. All of these are threatened by the oil spillage on the country’s coastline. 

Tsava National Park on fire

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) finally managed to put out the fire at Tsavo National Park. The fire, which started last week, ravaged large areas of the park and was the latest in a string of fires in the vicinity since July.

Although firefighters finally succeeded in containing it, thanks to the assistance of volunteers and members of the military, wildlife and vegetation are still at risk.

Tsavo is Kenya’s biggest national park and serves as home to hundreds of animals such as lions, elephants and buffaloes.

For a country whose economy depends largely on the tourism industry, the Tsavo fire has been a damaging almost beyond measure. The COVID-19 oubreak already had the East African nation reeling. Now the tourism industry is bound to lose billions of dollars more.

The government of Kenya has reacted quickly and a trickle of measures to revive the industry, including resumption of flights by Kenya Airways, is trying to bridge the gap. But it will be long months before the devastation caused by the Tsavo fire can be repaired.

E A Alanore

* Asaase Radio 99.5 – tune in or log on to broadcasts online.

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