Disappointing turnout at Persévérance meeting for fibre-optic submarine cable | 24 February 2020
Environmental impact assessment meetings are an essential part of any major project since the public’s inputs are often used to make informed decisions on how the project will finally be undertaken so as to not negatively impact on the environment and well-being of individuals.
In Seychelles, environmental impact assessment (EIA) meetings are often heated and contentious but in other instances the EIA meetings see poor turnouts from the public and other interested parties.
Such an instance was on Saturday during the EIA meeting hosted by the Seychelles Cable System company in regards to the second fibre-optic submarine cable which will use Persévérance as a landing point.
It is a US $20 million investment and comes 10 years after the installation of Seychelles’ first ever fibre-optic cable, the Seychelles East Africa System (SEAS), which is connected from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania to Beau Vallon beach.
The communications upgrade is meant to ensure Seychelles is able to stay connected to the outside world should anything happen to the first cable.
Saturday’s meeting however saw a disappointing turnout, with more empty seats than there were people.
In regards to the poor turnout the chairperson of the Seychelles Cable System, Benjamin Choppy said: “I suspect that the reasons why we did not see as much a turnout compared to the EIA meeting for the SEAS cable in Beau Vallon is because back then, the cable was a first for the country and we were landing at Beau Vallon, which is a very popular beach with locals and tourists.”
On her part, the director general for waste and enforcement at the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change Nanette Laure noted that people should seize the opportunity to take part in EIAs because they provide them with a platform to voice out their opinions, ask questions or even provide information which the project developer was unaware of.
“Unfortunately some people do not take up this opportunity. Even the district administrators did not come and they are the voices of their communities. If the public does not attend the meetings, at least the district representatives should be here. The opportunities were presented so it would be unfair later to come up and complain or criticise,” Ms Laure expressed.
The local consultant undertaking the project’s EIA process, Daniel Rosette, clarified that information about the meeting had been disseminated a number of times via various mediums such as radio, television and the national newspaper.
Eric Dulort, director of iXblue, the company working on the project, explained why Persévérance was chosen as the landing point for Seychelles’ second fibre-optic cable.
“We were looking at the best place to land the cable in Seychelles. For security purposes, we must not land the cable in the same place as the first one in Beau Vallon and hence Persévérance was identified as the ideal location,” Mr Dulort explained.
“We must avoid any maritime routes, we cannot land near the port, we must not land by the airport, we must avoid natural parks, and we must avoid coral reef zones and rocky places. So that limited us a lot in terms of where we could land on Mahé; the best place to land is Persévérance because it is a reclaimed island, it has no natural parks in front and the route is clear for the cable to go north-west towards Africa.”
“Persévérance is also an ideal place to land because there are ducts to go to the main data centre,” Mr Dulort added.
A survey vessel is presently making its way to Seychelles, charting a route for the cable from North Africa to Persévérance and will arrive here by the end of this month.
The cable is expected to be laid in July 2021 and the system will come into service in September 2021.
Meanwhile, concerned members of the public may still fill in and submit a scoping form in regards to the project, which must be submitted 14 working days after the meeting, and may also approach the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change using other means to voice out any concerns.