Fantala hits Farquhar again

Reconstruction necessarysays environment minister


A tower brought down by Fantala on Farquhar


Reconstruction on Farquhar is necessary environment minister Didier Dogley has said after the low-lying coral island was hit three times by tropical cyclone Fantala.

After devastating the island with winds gusting up to 355 kilometres per hour on Sunday April 17, Farquhar was again hit by tropical cycloneFantala a third time one week later on Sunday evening.

However, just as when it had come back for a second time last Tuesday, Fantala had lost its intensity and was heading towards the African mainland at about only two kilometres per hour.

The island of Aldabra however found itself on its course on Monday evening and yesterday, with no damage or casualties reported. With a considerable drop in the cyclone’s force, the Islands Development Company (IDC) which manages outer islands did not have to execute its plan to evacuate non-essential staff from the islands of Aldabra and Astove.

Having now moved towards the continent, Fantala poses no more threat to any Seychelles’ islands as Aldabra is the most eastward of the archipelago, thus the closest to Africa.

Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Didier Dogley has meanwhile stressed on the necessity to rebuild Farquhar after it has been almost completely destroyed by Fantala. Replying to concerns that millions may be invested in an island which remains vulnerable to cyclones and which may be again hit in the future, the minister has reacted that one does not run away from his or her home after being hit by a natural disaster.

“Mauritians, Malagasies, Réunionnais are hit by cyclones almost every year. Do they run away and abandon their countries as a result?” he has asked, adding that “the question is not if we have to rebuild Farquhar, but how to rebuild it.”

“We now have to build infrastructure which can withstand cyclones of 350 kilometres per hour. People have to understand that with climate change this will be the norm. We have to be resilient and adapt to climate change,” Mr Dogley explained, adding that “if we run away after a cyclone, one day there will be no one in Seychelles.”

Minister Dogley has also insisted that it is necessary to reinvest in the island as he says it is essential to invest in the whole country’s infrastructure and to maintain its integrity and security by protecting it from threats such as vandalism, robbery, piracy, terrorism and other criminal activities.

“I once went to Cosmoledo and found that a group of people from Madagascar had mounted a camp there and was exploiting sea cucumbers and sharks. We have to protect our islands from such illicit activities,” he said.

On accusations which suggest that Farquhar and the other outlying islands do not contribute much to the country’s economy, Minister Dogley has reacted by the negative and has bluntly said this is not true. He has rather argued that many Seychellois get their living from commercial activities going on there. He has stated those as tourism accommodation, fly fishing, diving, production of coconut oil and other coconut products, fishing, and production of salted fish of which most found on the local market he says comes from there.

“Many countries are fighting over territories. The fight is not only for the territory itself, but what lies around it. In our case it is what is around those islands. If we do not invest, it will be difficult to tap in those resources,” has commented Mr Dogley, adding that seismic studies have revealed that Farquhar is a potentially oil rich area.

At the same time, Minister Dogley has wished to make it clear that the IDC does not get a single cent subsidy from government as the parastatal is capable of financing itself. He asserts that government is only helping IDC to reconstruct Farquhar and is not bending itself to pressure from the company.

Instead, he is of the view that the help may pay dividend in the long term. He has in this context reminded that IDC does pay dividend to the Seychelles government annually.

IDC’s financial statements for the financial year ending March 31, 2015 has in fact revealed that after recording a profit after taxation of more than R17 million, it paid R3 million to government.

On complaints that the IDC restricts locals from landing on the islands under its control, the environment minister has replied that he believes the company enjoys good relations with the public, as he claims to have himself witnessed on Coetivy and Desroches. He has added that the IDC provides support for fishermen and private boats by helping them with water and other supplies when in need.

He has however admitted that conflicts sometimes do exist, primarily resulting from fishermen poaching on birds, birds’ eggs and sea tortoises, as well as willing to fish in the lagoon which he adds has potential for aquaculture.

 “Some people have created those problems. Fishermen cannot fish in the lagoon. If they insist to do so, the fish stock will disappear as the shallow water lagoon only represents a small area,” says the environment specialist.

To resolve the misunderstanding, Minister Dogley has suggested that  the IDC and the fishermen sit down together and discuss the situation.


The island has been devastated by the tropical cyclone


Following the Farquhar area being declared a disaster zone, Mr Dogley has announced that the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) has already pledged a grant of US $50 000 which will go into damage assessment. He has also revealed that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) which offers help to devastated communities has also given indications that it will intervene


Source: NATION 4-27-16