The appellant is appealing to this Court, pursuant to section 49(1) of the Environment Protection Act 1991, (called “the Act”) against the decision of the first respondent, as being erroneous in law, which affirmed on appeal that of the second respondent refusing the grant of an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) licence to the appellant in respect of a morcellement project consisting of the subdivision of its portion of agricultural land under sugar cane cultivation of an extent of 44.8251 hectares situate at Trianon (called “the land in lite”) into 96 plots for agricultural purposes. The second respondent’s decision was reached on the sole ground that “it is contrary to the Government’s Policy of dividing cane fields into smaller lots which will be owned/managed by a large number of persons and lead to counter productivity and adverse impact on national economy. According to a survey carried out by the MSIRI, small plots of land are more vulnerable to socio-economic problems like inheritance, land speculation and housing developments.
Environment Protection Act 1991
Rio Declaration: Principle of Sustainable Development
In its preamble the Act provides “for the protection and management of the environmental assets of Mauritius so that their capacity to sustain the society and its development remains unimpaired and to foster harmony between quality of life, environmental protection and sustainable development for the present and future generations. In section 18, the Minister may, where an EIA provides insufficient information to determine the scope or the impact of the undertaking on the environment, people or society, disapprove the EIA. It is clear, therefore, from the language and broad objects of the Act already mentioned, that the protection of the environment is an all-embracing concept which not only deals with environmental issues proper but also with public interest issues or issues affecting the welfare or economy of a state.
Consequently, both respondents were right in giving paramount consideration to the government’s policy of not allowing large sugar canes fields to be divided into smaller lots because of its adverse impact on productivity and on the national economy.
In any event, as correctly submitted by learned Counsel for the respondents, even on the assumption that there had been a mistake in granting an EIA licence to Société Ramdonee by the second respondent, the first respondent was right to have been on its guard against making a second mistake in granting the EIA licence sought by the appellant, in breach of the provisions of the Act.
For all the reasons given, the court dismissed the appeal, with costs.