Aug. 29 (UPI) — Thousands of people marched through the Mauritian capital Saturday to protest the government’s handling of a massive oil spill that has leaked an estimated 1,000 oil into the waters around the island nation since the end of July.
Some wore black and waved the national flag, where others wore T-shirts bearing the inscription, “I love my country. I’m ashamed of my government.”
On July 25 a Japanese oil tanker, the MV Wakashio, was en route to Brazil when it hit a coral reef off the Indian Ocean, spilling oil near the small island nation.
In mid-August the ship broke in half, causing more oil to leak into the waters around Mauritius.
The affected area includes a sanctuary for rare wildlife, and the Mauritian government reported Friday that 39 dead dolphins have washed ashore on the island — up from a reported 18 earlier this week.
Activists say the government could have done more to prevent the spill, and have criticized the decision to deliberately sink the ship after it split in half.
“They didn’t do anything when the ship approached our coastline – 12 days they didn’t do anything until the oil spill and now thousands of people and marine people are affected,” a demonstrator told the BBC.
Environmental activists have also criticized the Japanese government for failing to take responsibility for the damage caused by the spill.
The Mauritian government has promised to investigate the spill, and the captain of the ship has been arrested and charged with endangering safe navigation.
Demonstrators in other countries — including Canada, New Zealand and Australia — also took to the streets Saturday to show solidarity with protesters in Mauritius.