Potential dangers to the Chagos Islands | Letters

Jonathan Hunt says most of the islands are uninhabitable and Paul Tattam says there is a risk of China playing Britain at its own game of gunboat diplomacy

Britain has rightly been criticised by the international court for its appalling treatment of former inhabitants of the Chagos archipelago almost 50 years ago (Britain ordered to return Chagos Islands to Mauritius, 26 February). But the court displays little knowledge of the situation today. All but Diego Garcia and just one of the larger islands (30 out of 50) are infested with rats and uninhabitable. Billions would be required to restore them to a condition able to support significant populations.

A poor country like Mauritius could never afford even a fraction of the cost. The ecological danger to the planet is that Mauritius would flog off Chagos’s fishing rights to Japanese and other commercial operators, as it did with its own rights.

The current 200-mile exclusion zone provides a unique ocean laboratory where all manner of marine life thrives and can be studied. Much has been destroyed by man everywhere else. Whatever the outcome, it must be retained, maintained and protected.
Jonathan Hunt

• China was furious when the judgment of the permanent court of arbitration at The Hague ruled in July 2016 against its claims to huge areas of the South China Sea where on various uninhabited reefs, shoals and rocks it had already set up military infrastructure.

Its ambitions are highly controversial, but it hasn’t turfed anyone from their home. The sensitivity of the region didn’t, however, deter the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, from vowing to send the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to the area in his speech on “defence in Global Britain” earlier this month.

Between 1967 and 1973 the UK expelled the Chagos islanders from their Indian Ocean home so that the largest island could be used as a strategic military base. Now that the international court of justice has ruled that the UK should end its wrongful administration, one wonders whether China will feel it should deploy its carrier Liaoning in the region in order to “use its global capabilities to strengthen its global presence”, to borrow Williamson’s phrase.
Paul Tattam
Chinley, Derbyshire

• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

• Do you have a photo you’d like to share with Guardian readers? Click here to upload it and we’ll publish the best submissions in the letters spread of our print edition


The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Chagos islands marine protection plan comes under fire from three sides
Foreign secretary David Miliband's action condemned by British MPs, Mauritius government and native Chagossians

John Vidal, environment editor

06, Apr, 2010 @3:15 PM

Article image
Chagos island exiles express anger about 'military squatters'

Meeting in London addresses environmental issues surrounding the ban on inhabitation of the Indian Ocean archipelago

Sam Jones

19, May, 2011 @8:09 PM

Article image
Banished Chagos islanders insist: we are not at point of no return
People forced out of the Indian Ocean archipelago 40 years ago are now up against environmentalists and the British government

Sam Jones

19, May, 2011 @8:07 PM

Article image
Britain faces UN tribunal over Chagos Islands marine reserve
Ruling by permanent court of arbitration in The Hague may challenge UK's unilateral declaration of marine protected area

Owen Bowcott and John Vidal

28, Jan, 2013 @4:33 PM

Article image
Westminster, not the EU, is to blame for the sorry state of UK fishing | Letters
Letters: Roger Mainwood, David Walker and John Byrne respond to claims that Brexit will restore the fortunes of the UK’s fishing fleets


25, Apr, 2018 @4:23 PM

Article image
What future for British fishing? | Letters
Letters: We can take back control of our waters, writes Bertie Armstrong, while Steve Peak laments the Tories’ broken promises


24, Apr, 2018 @5:12 PM

Article image
Warning over Pacific bluefin tuna stocks as Japan meeting ends in stalemate
Meeting ends with no move to save endangered fish as campaigners warn bluefin tuna stocks will continue to plunge unless urgent action is taken

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

03, Sep, 2015 @10:18 PM

Article image
Conservationists condemn exile of Chagossians for marine reserve
Greenpeace and other groups say the rights of the islanders, who cannot return to the archipelago, have been violated

John Vidal, environment editor

21, May, 2012 @12:07 PM

Article image
Overfishing fears cast aside as sushi boss pays $118,000 for single bluefin tuna
Sale of 200kg fish to restaurant in Japan comes despite campaigners’ warnings that species is heading for extinction

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

05, Jan, 2016 @6:46 AM

Article image
Cooperation and force in aid of the environment | Letters
Letters: Albert Beale says Britain needn’t be in the EU to make environmental progress, Darian McBain says seafood companies are helping to establish regulations, Michael Williams outlines the progress made by fisheries and conservation authorities, and Ursula Holden highlights the Mothers Rise Up climate march


14, May, 2019 @5:06 PM