Swiss billionaire saves Chagos Islands marine reserve from UK govt cuts
The Chagos Islands, aka British Indian Ocean Territory, is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom containing many small islands, the largest being Diego Garcia.
Diego Garcia was famously – and forcibly – evacuated by the UK government in the 1960s to make way for a US military base. After several court cases, the islanders have still not been allowed to resettle their homeland. The Chagos’ only inhabitants are currently US military living on Diego Garcia.
Furthermore, last April a 250,000 square mile (650,000 sq km) Marine Protected Area (MPA) was established around the archipelago prohibiting commercial fishing.
From an article in the Independent:
The 55 islands across 210,000 square miles in the middle of the Indian Ocean which form the British Overseas Territory have at least 60 endangered species in their coral reefs and waters. They are home to more than 220 types of coral, 1,000 species of fish and at least 33 different seabirds and have been described as the most pristine tropical marine environment on Earth.
But the policing the reserve is dependent on funding from the British government, which is reported to be subject – like everything else – to cuts from the new Tory-Lib Dem coalition.
In a surprise George Sorros-y, Bill Gates-y, Warren Buffet-y philanthrocapitalist move, the funding for the MPA looks like it will come from Swiss Billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli. That’s right, the government can’t save the Earth – only god-like rich people can.
Though conservationist groups have long campaigned for a marine reserve to protect this unspoiled area of ocean, local fishermen are opposed to the ban.
From a report in the Guardian:
They have sent an open letter to the five leadership contenders, urging them to oppose or reconsider Miliband’s decision to declare the Chagos islands a marine protection area. The government decision infuriated neighbouring countries, native Chagossians and MPs.
The islanders also see the establishment of the MPA as another block to their resettlement of the British Indian Ocean Territory.