Desroches island opens up for viewing, showcasing exemplary developments -Ministerial and parliamentary delegations learn about Desroches island


09-May-2009

An aerial view of the island

The delegations’ visits were at the invitation of the Islands Development Company (IDC), which is aiming to get government officials and the general public knowing more about the island and the various plans to develop it. The visits are also part of the IDC’s plans to clear up certain misconceptions about the company’s role and work on the outer islands.

The ministerial delegation are told what goes on at the sawmill

The ministerial delegation, which visited the island last month, was made up of ministers Jacquelin Dugasse, Vincent Meriton, Joel Morgan and Bernard Shamlaye, and accompanying them were principal secretaries Christian Lionnet and Didier Dogley. Other officials from departments such as Environment and National Development, as well as the media, were also present.

The parliamentary team consisted of 12 members from the government and the opposition. The government team was headed by the leader of government business Marie-Louise Potter and the opposition group by Nicholas Prea.

Mr Savy briefs the MNAs on the various aspects of Desroches island

On arriving on Desroches by IDC plane, the guests were taken to one of the newly built residential villas, at a place called Madam Zabre’s, by golf carts. The visitors were shown a map of the island and given a brief history by IDC chief executive and chairman Glenny Savy and told how the island’s various projects will help it become self-sustaining in due course.

The delegation then went on a guided tour of the island, again by golf carts, and was shown the various sites where developments are taking place or which have been earmarked for development.

History of Desroches island
Desroches is an outer coralline island, which lies some 230 kilometres south-west of Mahe. It was named by Chevalier de Roslan, commander of the ship L’Heure du Berger, after the Chevalier des Roches, the Governor of Mauritius (then Île de France) and Réunion (then Bourbon) from 1767 to 1772.

The island belongs to the Amirantes group and is about six kilometres long and about 1.3 kilometres wide. Comprising 400 hectares of land, the island was handed back to the Seychelles government by the British when it gained its independence in 1976.

The hotel’s general manager Louis Korb (second from right) explains the plans to upgrade and expand the hotel

Desroches was leased to the IDC in 1980 and had its airstrip built in 1981, with a grass surface. In 1988 the airstrip was upgraded to a concrete surface measuring 1.38 kilometres long.

Today the IDC owns three aircraft, which make regular trips to Desroches and other islands. These are an 18-seater BeechCraft, a Caravan Cessna 2 capable of taking eight passengers and an Islander, which can carry six passengers. A flight to Desroches takes around 30-40 minutes in normal weather conditions.

Ministers’ questions during the visit
For the first visit, the ministers reviewed the developments relating to their own ministries. Minister Dugasse, as the parent minister for the IDC, assessed the company’s overall role in The guests see the beauty of casuarina timber after it has been processedthe developments, while Minister Shamlaye took part in talks relating to the proposed school, which will initially cater for crèche and primary levels.

Minister Morgan wanted to know about conservation of the island’s environment and natural beauty and also about the impact of the various developments.

Minister Meriton was keen to explore and discuss the social aspect of the developments and the interaction between staff, tourists and villa residents, and what kind of contact the various stakeholders will have with each other. The owner of the island’s only hotel, Kenneth Collins, and general manager Louis Korb also answered some of the questions about the Desroches Island Resort’s upgrading and expansion.

Brief history of the hotel and plans for its expansion
The Desroches Island Resort was opened in 1988 by the IDC, and they managed it for several years. From 1991 onwards, it was leased out to the private sector, and the current owner is Collins Property Limited. The hotel now has 20 junior suites.
There is a 70-year lease on the property, after which it will return to the IDC.

Bricks of all types and sizes for construction are made at the plant

In October 2007 a project began to expand and upgrade the hotel. There are now around 400 people living and working on Desroches, of whom about 300 are expatriate workers.

Owning a private villa on Desroches
There are now 26 residential villas on Desroches, some of which are still being built by the IDC for a private developer, Great Plains Seychelles. The owners are foreigners from all over the world, although most of them are from South Africa.
Fully-furnished villas, each with its own private swimming pool, can range in price from $2.5 million to $4 million.

A view of some of the completed villas

The villas are being built by an IDC workforce on a two-year contract, and they are all expected to be completed by October 2009.
Although the owners have a right to use the villas for a period of 30-60 days a year, the rest of the time the villas will be rented by the hotel as part of its rooms.

Desroches’ self-sustaining projects 
A number of projects on the island help to make it self-sustaining, with a minimum of materials having to be imported from “outside”. A brick-making factory meets all the island’s needs in construction, while a modern set of three generators gives the entire island electricity.

A central sewage treatment plant takes care of the whole island’s waste water, processes it and provides clean, treated water, which is used for irrigation and fire-fighting.

Water from the sewage treatment plant is stored and used for irrigation A set of modern and fuel-efficient generators give electricity to the entire island

Casuarinas trees are harvested and taken to the sawmill. These are then made into timber-based products such as doors, windows, steps, floor planking, roof rafters and furniture.

There are cold storage and blast-freezing facilities, not only for the island to preserve fish and meat but also for those who go out on fishing trips and return with a catch.

A waste-sorting scheme is in place, whereby each home, including the villas and staff quarters, is equipped with special bins for different types of waste.

Sea water is made potable

In the near future other projects will start, such as animal rearing on a larger scale to produce most of the island’s meat and a renewable energy system. The IDC is looking at the possibility of investing in steam-powered electricity generation using green waste such as leaves, branches and bushes.

An incentive for the island’s residents is a guesthouse that will soon be built to accommodate individuals and families wanting to spend a weekend or holiday on the island at an affordable rate.

The garden supplies Desroches with all its vegetables, fruit and spices

A bigger clinic will be built to serve all the island’s residents and guests, and in a bid to encourage whole families to come and work on the island a school will soon be built for their children.

Mr Savy also said copra production is expected to resume at the end of the year, while the trees they plant to replace those cut down will soon include other types apart from casuarina.

Attractions and must-sees on Desroches
Desroches boasts immaculate, soft, sandy beaches such as Bombay beach, Aquarium, La Passe Tambi, La Passe Therese and La Passe Hodoul. The crystal-blue waters provide excellent diving experiences, and there are also several important landmarks including the lighthouse at the northernmost tip of the island (La Pointe Helene) inaugurated in May 1972 by Edward Vital of the then Public Works Department. There is also the old cemetery, not too far from the IDC village, where people have been buried since 1955.

Conclusion
The IDC, which for the past four years has not been subsidised by the government, has been operating as a fully autonomous and self-sustaining organisation. Its management said it plans to continue with the familiarisation visits to Desroches and its other islands.

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