Climate change, coastal setback and the value of properties in Mauritius

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The nature of Mauritius is still paradisic, though there are certainly “dark clouds at the sky”. Nevertheless, if you are not mindful when renting or buying a property, you can quickly get from paradise to hell. Every country has its specific characteristics to consider.

Climate change, coastal setback and the value of properties in Mauritius

Beside the problem of money laundering, often involving real estate projects, we see in particular 3 key issues you should think about.

  1. Climate change, erosion and inundation, coastal setback and the influence on the value of properties
  2. Hazardous levels of pollution along busy roads causing severe health problems and even death
  3. Regular high noise emissions from dogs, parties and construction sites causing heavy disturbances, sleepless nights and severe health problems

Within the series “Important things to consider when renting or buying properties in Mauritius” we will hence discuss these 3 important issues. Today we start with topic 1.


The effect of climate change on Mauritius

Mauritius is highly vulnerable to adverse impacts of climate change. According to the latest World Risk Report (2016), Mauritius is ranked as the 13th country with the highest disaster risk and ranked 7th on the list of countries most exposed to natural hazards.1

Because of the continuous destruction of the coral reefs and the rising of the sea level more and more coastal areas are bing inundated and are subsequently eroding.2:

  • As we all know corals are being bleached in Mauritius and many other places around the globe. Already in 2003, the percentage of completely bleached corals at Ile aux Benitiers, Belle Mare, Poudre d’Or and Albion were 56%, 11%, 22%, and 2% respectively. Coral bleaching in Mauritius subsequently occurred in 2004 and 2009 with a further heavy increase of bleaching. Scientists predict a reduction in live corals by 80-100% by 2100. As a consequence, coastal zones will without doubt deteriorate and coral reef fish population will decrease.
  • Analysis of Port Louis data for the period 1987-2007 gives a mean sea level rise of 2.1 mm/year for the years in question (source: Mauritius Meteorological Services). However, figures of sea level rise from the University of Hawaii indicate a mean sea level rise of 5.6 mm/year for the period 2003-2012 (source: Sea Level Rise Centre of University of Hawaii).

In reality these two changes are overlapping and making the adverse effects more severe. With the bleaching and subsequently dying of the coral reefs, higher tides will reach the beaches. These higher tides are further lifted by the rising sea level. Both of the effects multiply in the case of severe storms.

It is projected that beaches, which are the pillars of the tourism industry will slowly disappear carrying away with them possibly over USD 50 million in value added in the sector by 2050.3

Based on the coastal erosion study carried out by the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) in collaboration with the Government of Mauritius, it has been found that 17% of the beaches are already now suffering from long term erosion. According to the Disaster Risk Reduction Report 4 the following point elements are at risk of coastal inundation (due to surges and sea level rise)5:

  • Flood Hazard: 19-30 km of agricultural land, 5-70 km of built up land, 2.4-3 Km of motorway; 18-29 Km of main roads, 68-109 Km of secondary roads
  • Coastal Inundation: 12.2 km of built-up land, 11.8 km of expansion areas, 60 km of primary and 80 secondary roads.

Another study estimated, that with a 1m sea-level rise, around 26km of beaches would disappear on the west coast. This includes the flooding of local housing and tourist infrastructure, as well as plantations and major coastal road links. 6

Video: The effects of climate change on Islands of the Indian Ocean ("Développer de la résilience au changement climatique dans l’Océan Indien")

Coastal set-back as key measure for Mauritius

So what needs to be done? We certainly do not have the “space” here to talk about climate change and general measures to be taken against it. Climate change is a fact, whether we like it or not. Mauritius certainly does not have the means and resources to build highly expensive counter measures. Beside that it is anyway highly questionable if such measures can be sustainable.

Thus one of the main actions for Mauritius is to identify affected areas, to define set-back zones and to create plans how to evacuate these zones step by step.

In the approved National Climate Change Adaptation Policy Framework for the Republic of Mauritius (Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, 2012), the Government of Mauritius identified coastal zone management as one of the priority sectors for adaptation.7

Following consultation with stakeholders8 a formulation of the coastal setback guideline was agreed: Guideline For Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (Coastal Setback). This guideline, which is also the first of a series of guideline will address setback as one of the proactive measures, taking on board core parameters such as: Long term erosion, sea level rise, wave surges during extreme events, environmental sensitive areas and historical features among others.9

Identified areas requiring coastal setback

Hot spots around Mauritius with lots of areas being heavily affected by sea level rise and coastal inundation are shown in the following figure. These hotspots include:

  • Le Morne
  • La Preneuse / Black River
  • Flic en Flac / Tamarin
  • Albion
  • Port Louis
  • Grand Baie
  • Roches Noires
  • Poste de Flacq
  • Quatre Cocos (Verger) and Trou d’Eau Douce
  • Vieux Grand Port
  • Mahébourg
  • Surinam
  • Bel Ombre
  • Baie du Cap

Hot spots with lots of areas being highly affected by coastal inundation in Mauritius

Hot spots with lots of areas being affected by coastal inundation.10

The guideline has applied the described effects to a number of exemplary zones around Mauritius:

At most of these places a minimum set-back of 30-60m from the coast has been identified, with zones up to 800m land inwards being affected by storm surges/coastal inundation (hazard exposure level).

In some exemplary areas detailed plans have been exercised: Baie du Tombeau, Pointe aux Canonniers, Mon Choisy, Bras d’Eau, Quatre Cocos (Verger) and Trou d’Eau Douce, Ile aux Cerfs, Pointe d’Esny, Bel Ombre, Le Morne, Flic en Flac, Albion, Pointe aux Sables and Grand Sable.11

The effect of coastal setback on the value of real estate properties

Though there are many scientific studies and panels12 , the speed of climate change is locally unforeseeable. Furthermore current predictions are based on scenarios which are not valid, because the underlying "positive" change of human behaviour apparently can't be realised. As reference see for example the UN Emissions Gap Report 2017, which has been released just now (October 31, 2017).

As things stand, the UN says, even fully implementing the goals of the Paris Agreement (concluded in 2015) will deliver only one third of what is needed for the world to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

If so, changes will be more fast and severe than assumed in these scenarios. It means that the exercise described above is already invalid. It means that there will be more rise of sea level at a faster pace, it means that set back zones will go more land inwards and it means that more infrastructure and people will be affected.

What is sure, properties in affected areas are most likely suffering a tremendous loss of value. Either because they are in set-back zones which will be given up or/and because heavy investments will be required to counterbalance adverse effects. Having said so, we even don't talk about the indirect effects of vanishing beaches to tourism and real estate, but merely the direct effect! Although Mauritius has to offer much more than splendid beaches, a Mauritius without beaches will most likely have a heavy drop in tourism. To get an idea of this, just have a look at the visitor numbers of the neighbour island Réunion, with a similar climate, a better infrastructure (EU Standard) and a more diverse cultural offering, but very few sandy beaches.

It obviously makes little sense to buy a property in a set-back zone, a zone vulnerable to storm surges/coastal inundation or a zone which most likely will be negatively affected, because the speed of these developments and hence the influence on the value of the property is absolutely unforeseeable. If you don't care about the money and just want to enjoy your property as long as you can, okay. But if you want to make an long-term investment in a living-place for your family or if you are even speculating on an increase of value, the purchasing of a property in an affected area is a very bad idea! For obvious reasons it is very likely that the value of such a property will go towards zero over time. What is sure, its a heavy risk which has to go into the valuation of such a property.

We believe that this development is currently not yet reflected in the prices of properties in affected zones. There are even still people around who are trying to promote beach front properties or properties close to beaches as excellent investment opportunities.

In the next series of “Important things to consider when buying or renting properties in Mauritius” we will discuss 2. Hazardous levels of pollution along busy roads causing severe health problems and death.

Further Reading:

  • United Nations University – Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and Alliance Development Works: World Risk Report 2016, Berlin/Bonn, 2017
  • United Nations Environment: The Emissions Gap Report 2017: A UN Environment Synthesis Report, Nairobi, November 2017
  • The Republic Of Mauritius, Ministry Of Environment, Sustainable Development, And Disaster And Beach Management: Guideline For Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (Coastal Setback), Port Louis, March 2016
  • Roshan T Ramessur, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius: A Review of Coastal Zone Management Facing Climate Change and Natural Disasters in Mauritius, Port Louis, 2013
  • Sally Brown, Abiy S. Kebede and Robert J. Nicholls, School of Civil Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton: Sea-Level Rise and Impacts in Africa, 2000 to 2100, Southampton, 2011
  • Dr Peter Kouwenhoven, Indian Ocean Commission, Assessing The Costs Of Coastal Inundation for Baie Du Tombeau, Port Louis, Mauritius, February 2014
  • Presentation @ NAP Workshop, Madagascar, 7-11 September 2015: Mauritius National Adaptation Plan, Madagascar, September 2015
  • 1. United Nations University – Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and Alliance Development Works: World Risk Report 2016, Berlin/Bonn, 2017, p.11 and 49
  • 2. The Republic Of Mauritius, Ministry Of Environment, Sustainable Development, And Disaster And Beach Management: Guideline For Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (Coastal Setback), Port Louis, March 2016, p.2ff
  • 3. The Republic Of Mauritius, Ministry Of Environment, Sustainable Development, And Disaster And Beach Management: Guideline For Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (Coastal Setback), Port Louis, March 2016, p.2
  • 4. Disaster Risk Reduction Strategic Framework and Action Plan
  • 5. The Republic Of Mauritius, Ministry Of Environment, Sustainable Development, And Disaster And Beach Management: Guideline For Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (Coastal Setback), Port Louis, March 2016, p.2
  • 6. Sally Brown, Abiy S. Kebede and Robert J. Nicholls, School of Civil Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton: Sea-Level Rise and Impacts in Africa, 2000 to 2100, Southampton, 2011, p.11f
  • 7. The Republic Of Mauritius, Ministry Of Environment, Sustainable Development, And Disaster And Beach Management: Guideline For Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (Coastal Setback), Port Louis, March 2016, p.3
  • 8. The Project for Capacity Development on Climate Change Measure in The Republic of Mauritius (2014-2016)
  • 9. The Republic Of Mauritius, Ministry Of Environment, Sustainable Development, And Disaster And Beach Management: Guideline For Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (Coastal Setback), Port Louis, March 2016, p.3
  • 10. Important remark: This is a simplified illustration showing the hot-spots. In these hot-spots many coastal areas are affected according to actual research. It does neither mean that all areas at these hot spots are affected nor that areas outside these hot spots are not affected. For more detailed illustrations kindly consult the reports available from government and/or science. Source: The Republic Of Mauritius, Ministry Of Environment, Sustainable Development, And Disaster And Beach Management: Guideline For Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (Coastal Setback), Port Louis, March 2016
  • 11. The Republic Of Mauritius, Ministry Of Environment, Sustainable Development, And Disaster And Beach Management: Guideline For Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (Coastal Setback), Port Louis, March 2016, p.13 -26
  • 12. See Further Reading
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There is 1 Comment

Mauritius Lover's picture

I was just about to sign a contract to purchase a property in an affected zone. Luckily I read the article first, what prevented me from a big mistake! It's really a pity that things has gone thus far. Just today I read 2 articles about this topic 1. was discussing indications that warming is faster than thought and that the aimed goal of a max. increase of temperature can never be met due to a lack of behavioral change 2. was discussing that the glaciers in Europe where melting at the fastest speed this year (since measurement started). It is really time to wake-up!

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