Barely 1865 kilometres square, the island of Mauritius is small by any standards. Yet it has a diversity of geographical
features that makes the landscape always interesting to look at. Basically, the island is made up of undulating uplands varying in height from 300
metres to a maximum of 600 metres in the south. Surrounding the uplands are mountain ranges and plains. Numerous rivers flow to the sea fed
entirely by rainfall. Last but not least, stretches of coral sand beaches are found along part of the coast line.It is situated in the South West Indian
Ocean (20°S I 57.50E) approximately 2,000 km from Durban, 1,800 km from Mombasa, 6,000 kms from Perth and 4,700 kms from Bombay.The central plateau
rises to a level of some 600 metres marked by extinct volcanic craters, crisscrossed by rivers, streams and waterfalls. Bordering this tableland
are three mountain ranges with fantastically-shaped masses of basalt which testify to the volcanic origin of the island. From these mountains,
several peaks emerge: Piton de Ia Rivière Noire: (828 mts), Pieter Both (823 mts), Le Pouce (812 mts).
In the central part of the island, at about 600 metres above sea level, the average maximum daytime temperature
varies from about 20°C in August to about 26°C in February. Dawn (minimum) temperature is of the order of 14 °C in August and rises to 20°C in
February. Along coastal areas, the temperatures are generally 3 to 5 degrees higher, the western and northern regions are warmer and relatively drier
than the East and South. A green cover of vegetation is maintained over much of the country throughout the year.
Except for beaches and coral reef formation, the island is entirely of volcanic origin. Three major periods of
volcanic activity resulted in the formation of the island. The first period, called the Emergence and Older Series or the Ancient Series, lasted
from 10 million years ago to about 5 million years ago. This period caused the emergence of the island. The Ancient series can be further broken
down into two distinct parts: The Breccia Series from 10 million years ago to 7.8 million years ago and the Old Series Lavas from 7.6 million years
ago to 5 million years ago. The second period called the Early Volcanic Series or Intermediate Series lasted from 3 ½ million years ago to 1.7
million years ago.The third period called the Younger Series or the Recent Series lasted from 700,000 years ago to 20,000 years ago.
The geology of the island is basically basalt everywhere. But the three main phases of volcanic activity have
given rise to different types of rock.
There are three main mountain ranges which are the Port Louis-Moka Mountain Range, the Black River - Savanne
Mountain Complex and the Bambous Mountain Massif.
These mountain ranges were formed by very important lava flows some 7 million years ago. In fact they are remnants
of an ancient shield volcano that collapsed upon itself forming a caldera. The three mountain ranges can be seen to form a rough discontinuous
circle that encircle the central uplands and highlands. They were the walls of this ancient shield volcano that first caused the emergence of the
Over the ages a unique fauna and flora have evolved with no interference from man, nature was the sole agent of
change of the environment. The subsequent arrival of man and the establishment of permanent human settlements had drastic effect on the
environment: For example, the disappearance of the flightless Dodo early in the 17th century, the gradual shrinkage of the original forest cleared away for agriculture, settlements and roads, the introduction of alien species (animal and vegetal) which have successfully competed with the indigenous ones.
The presence of numerous rivers and streams, abundant rainfall, fertile land and a productive lagoon have enabled
the island to support a sizeable population through agriculture and artisanal fishery ever since the 17th century. The wealth of the island being its agriculture and fishery, this explains why close to half of the island is under agriculture, why more than half of the population is rural, and why the coastline has always been dotted with numerous fishing villages.
The last fifteen years have seen a spectacular increase in the standard of living of the population together with
a change in the consumption patterns. This fact coupled with a significant increase in population over the past two decades, mean that new demands
are being thrust on the environment: new lands needed for property development, roads and factories, a greater output from agriculture, an
increased demand for fish from the lagoon and fishing banks.
It is clear that, like any other country, Mauritius is at the crossroads. The environment cannot be taken
for granted any longer. There is an urgent need to manage the impacts of development and population growth on the local environment in view of