Public beach, private property, right of way... Long-standing conflicts between waterfront hoteliers or owners and picnickers or strollers are frequent! Short brief about the rights and obligations of each and everyone...
The ’’Pas Geométriques Act’’, often misunderstood or misinterpreted and thereby causing endless debates, already exists. The law was voted in 1807 by General Decaen under the French administration, for defense purposes against the British army. After being approved in 1895 under the current name ’’Pas Geométriques Act’’, this law is still in force today.
In other words, the beach is represented by a strip of sand located all around the island. This strip band is public from the sea up to the point reached by the waves at high tide (the High Water Mark). The Coastal Law is very similar to the French law, thereby authorizing access and free use of the area until the high water mark; it is however strictly forbidden to use the private facilities set up by the owners along the beach without prior authorization..
The confusion lies often between ’’private beach’’ and ’’private property’’. As such, there is no private beach along the coast of Mauritius: the coastal lands being public, this means that they belong to the State and are leased to individuals or groups. The right of use goes logically to the person or company that owns the contract and pays the rental fees (lease). The land is owned by the government of Mauritius but, without prior permission from the tenant, access on the leased land is prohibited. The part which is not rented is accessible to all. This part is between the high tide marks on the beach and extends to the horizon and varies with the tide.
It is only allowed to walk freely between the high water mark and the sea while swimming remains completely legal.
The Beach Authority (BA) has listed 93 public beaches along the coast, some partly equipped with toilets, water point, tables, BBQ area, with daily cleaning and strict rules for picnics, camping or BBQ. The Beach Authority also governs access to beaches and it should be pointed out that there is no law stipulating the need to allow public access to beaches every 500 meters...
The ongoing debate between beach users and villa owners will go on. Let’s hope that all find a place in the sun!