Annual Environment Conference launched at Bel Air Community Center

POSTED: 02/17/15 12:02 AM

St. Maarten —Despite the small turnout at the launching of the Annual Environmental Conference at the Bel Air Community Center, the conference had its desired effect of underlining the importance of protection of the environment. Leader of the Democratic Party and Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams expressed the concerns of the community in relation to waste and how it is managed on St. Maarten.

Wescott-Williams noted that although St. Maarten is seen as “an affluent island, one that others look up to, we too face that problem, even more so than others.”  She stressed that the environment is very important not only for the current populace but for mankind in general. She spoke of how the island has been struggling to manage its waste.

The former Prime Minister described the sanitary landfill in the heart of Philipsburg as an eyesore and said it has been so for a very long time. Wescott-Williams said that research has shown that the landfill is affecting the health of the people. “It is an ongoing battle to keep it under control,” said Wescott Williams. She said the conference is timely because “time is running out” and as a result she hopes there will be some strategy as to what could be done.

She called on the technicians to seek out the best technology to have the problem fixed and get to one common understanding since there is need to manage the waste because the current method cannot continue and should have been eliminated a long time ago. “However, it is never too late but every day that passes and it is not properly addressed, makes it more difficult,” she said.

Manager of the Center of Sustainable Wastes management who is also a Professor at the University of Northampton, England, Margaret Bates in her address spoke of some of the things that could be done with the disposal of the waste. She mentioned that some of the things that we throw away sometimes have a value. She pointed out that there is need to reduce the amount of waste that is produced and look at recycling.

Bates said that in waste management there may be difference in challenges in legislation and indicated that in some cases environmental legislation may be the priority. “Visitors do not come here because it is hot,” she said, “they come because it is hot and beautiful.”  She also spoke of allowing the visiting population to contribute to the upkeep of waste management by introducing a fee which will help the local government.

It was suggested that the government could also partner with other islands which could be an alternative to the dump. Bates expressed surprise at how the sanitary landfill has grown since her last visit to the island. “What is also different is that it seems to be better managed than the last time I was here but there could still be public health concerns,” she said. Professor Bates has confirmed that cruise passengers generate more waste than the local population and she suspects that if one examines the amount of waste the general population produces and the amount produced when the visiting population is here, one will certainly notice the difference. “It simply means that people on holidays don’t really care” she said.

“It is necessary to ensure that the people that come here see as an example that people dispose of their garbage in the right way.” During her address she outlined many other ways that the island could manage its waste and she is hopeful that some of the ideas to come to a solution in solving the problem of waste management can be implemented.

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