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Mauritius - Plaines Wilhems

Although Plaines Wilhems has had settlers since 1690, officially it only became an inhabited district in 1877. Since then it has burgeoned into the island’s most densely populated region, with at least 30% of Mauritius’s population living in the plateau towns of Beau Bassin, Rose Hill, Quatre Bornes, Phoenix, Vacoas, Floréal and Curepipe.

The district begins as a thin wedge between the Port Louis and Black River districts. It follows the motorway southwards, widening gradually around the plateau towns. In the south, beyond Curepipe, it borders the districts of Grand Port and Savanne. The northern part of Plaines Wilhems is largely residential, while the south is characterised by tea plantations, forests and reservoirs.

Plaines Wilhems was sparsely populated until 1861, when a cholera epidemic caused the first exodus from Port Louis of people seeking a healthier climate and swelled the population to 28,020. The malaria epidemic of 1866–68 accelerated the drift. This migration resulted in ghettos. Whereas Port Louis had been a cosmopolitan mixture, the races here divided to form new towns. Those of French origin settled in Curepipe, whilst the upper class of the Indian and Creole population chose Rose Hill. The division between social/ethnic groups was emphasised by the trains, which had three separate classes, and were used by the plateau town dwellers to commute every day to Port Louis. Now the settlements from Beau Bassin to Curepipe have merged into a single, built-up area, but the divisions remain by tradition.

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