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Spotlighting the Decline of Coral Reefs

She didn’t plan to make a movie. But after Zara Currimjee (Mauritius, UWC Mahindra, Williams ’13) had returned for holidays to the island nation where she grew up snorkeling, fishing, and diving in what she calls “the most beautiful of backyards,” she decided someone should tell the world what was happening to its coral-reef waters.

So Zara and a childhood friend, Vanina Havel, made the film Vey nou Lagon: Preserve Our Lagoon.

At home in Mauritius, out in the Indian Ocean, “we witnessed ocean degradation through the drastic decline in coral-reef cover and the exponential increase of algae in our reefs,” Zara and Havel told the Mauritian newspaper Le Mauricien. “Our marine ecosystems worldwide, and in Mauritius, are at a tipping point.”

Having secured funding for their project from National Geographic, the Mauritian embassy to the U.S., and the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, the two premiered their movie in Mauritius last spring.

“The week of the premiere, the film was featured in every local newspaper, on the radio, TV, and magazines,” Zara writes. The movie tells its story through the eyes of a Mauritian fisherman who can no longer support his family as the fish population declines. It has been screened in Mauritian schools, has inspired local volunteer efforts, and was featured at September’s global “Our Ocean” conference in Washington, D.C.

Zara is pursuing a master’s degree in international environmental policy at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. After Williams, she worked for the Ocean Foundation, then for the nonprofit Oceana in Washington, D.C. There she reconnected with Vanina, and they decided to make a film.

“This experience really made me realize that your age doesn’t matter,” Zara writes. “If you have a creative and powerful idea, people will help you.”