Foreign Affairs and Transport Minister Joël Morgan said this during a consultative meeting on La Digue on Saturday morning. He was accompanied by transport principal secretary Patrick Andre, road transport commissioner Tim Marie and other officials of the department of transport.
The focus of the well-attended meeting at the island’s community centre was to inform the citizenry about environmental principles and provide the tools and financial incentives to save what makes La Digue such a beautiful and attractive place.
Policy analyst Valentina Barra made a presentation of the La Digue land transport policy themed ‘Greening La Digue’ and he said the policy is about limiting the number of motorised vehicles on La Digue and encouraging only environmentally friendly modes of transportation on the island.
The policy, which is not final as Diguois will be called upon again once amendments have been made to the existing one taking into consideration the recommendations that came up in Saturday’s meeting, also contains set guidelines for the operation of different modes of transportation and the building of road infrastructure on the island.
The main issues discussed were the number of taxi and pick-up trucks on the island, regulating the use of golf carts by hotels and guesthouses, street lighting to improve visibility and security at night, and promoting cycling as a mode of transportation.
According to the policy being discussed, the number of non-conventionalised motorised vehicles on the island should not exceed 50 and this quota does not include golf carts as their number will be determined by the number of hotels and guest houses. If there is a need to increase or decrease the quota a formal request should be made to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Transport by the department of transport who will in turn submit the proposition to the Office of the President.
There are currently five taxi operators on La Digue and many people have asked for the number to be increased as these taxis are most of the time busy with visitors while locals do not receive the service they require. As a result, some owners of golf karts have started transporting passengers and visitors around the island.
Minister Morgan pointed out that “owners of golf karts who do not have a tour guiding licence should not be driving tourists around the island”, adding that “they should respect their licence which comprise the day-to-day transfer of clients to and from the jetty and helipad and also to service the needs of their establishments”.
Those present also suggested that because taxi operators cannot deliver the service required of them as there are just five of them, owners of golf karts should be allowed to transfer locals around the island.
A final decision is yet to be taken as the minister has agreed to meet taxi, pick-up and golf cart operators in separate meetings before the end of July to better understand their concerns.
Speaking to the local media, Minister Morgan said the brainstorming meeting achieved its objective as “it generated the most free-flowing creative ideas possible”.
He added it is hoped that La Digue will become all-electric of hybrid in five years’ time.
The minister said: “I personally believed that La Digue can become Seychelles’ eco capital and have an all-electric status by 2020 with the exception of heavy machinery. We will also have solar and LED lighting projects. Being an eco capital also means improving the quality of the environment and there is still a lot to be done to meet the target. We also need to work with people who intend to make any construction projects to make sure they are eco-friendly and blend well with the environment. These include having photovoltaic roofing, a design that incorporates natural ventilation and water storage facility.”
The minister also reminded that President James Michel said in his National Day address on June 29 that with effect from July 15, 2015 duty on all electric vehicles will be abolished and at the same time, duty on hybrid vehicles will be reduced to 5%.
Known for its specialty of having a lot of bicycles, the La Digue island is expected to see the introduction of electric bicycles under special condition. All hire and private bicycles should be tested once a year and all bicycles in a rental fleet should be fitted with a disc as means of recognition. Bicycle hire fleets should not be less than 15 bicycles and not more than 100.
Another feature of La Digue is the ox-carts and the policy makes provision for oxen to be examined by a veterinary physician and that ox-cart structures be modified so as to reduce undue burden and pain on the oxen.
Speaking about public transport on La Digue, Minister Morgan said there are two private 15-seater buses providing the service, while the camion service is dedicated to contract services including providing transfer for groups of tourists, hotel transfers and public service.
“There are complaints that the demand is too big for the suppliers and with the help of the community we will see how we can solve these issues without having to add more buses,” explained Minister Morgan.
Newly appointed transport inspector Georges Dine is tasked with monitoring the different services and ensuring that public transport service runs smoothly on La Digue.
The minister and his delegation also visited three roads which will either be built or renovated and those are the Boules des Neiges, Morin and La Vanille roads.
“These are long stretches of roads that need to be built or renovated as they are flooded during the rainy season meaning people have problems reaching home. Work costing R9.2 million will start once we have signed the wayleave agreements with the different proprietors and the department of transport has got the necessary approval,” said Minister Morgan who also visited the jetty which will also undergo renovation works.