Opinion: Simpson Bay Lagoon filling illegal

POSTED: 02/25/14 10:46 PM

Dear Editor,

The board of the Sint Maarten Pride Foundation is certain that you will recall the serious concerns Pride Foundation expressed in the printed media on December 21st, 2013 regarding the most recent filling-in of the Simpson Bay Lagoon for the Airport expansion project. The Foundation is equally certain that you and your devoted readers will clearly recall that the Minister of Environmental Affairs Mr. Maurice Lake verbally attacked Sint Maarten Pride Foundation and chastised the organization for its expression of concerns regarding the Lagoon.

In order to refresh your memory please allow us to remind you that in your publication of the aforementioned date last year Minister Lake made the following statements about the filling-in of the Simpson Bay Lagoon:

“All was planned and “done by the book” in cooperation with relevant stake holders such as the Nature Foundation”. “I have given written permission and all have followed proper procedures and regulations”. (Minister Maurice Lake, December 2013)

So the Minister claimed on December 21st, 2013 that the filling-in of the Simpson Bay Lagoon had been properly executed and that written permission (permits) had been issued. Sint Maarten Pride Foundation found these statements by Minister Lake to be questionable at best, considering that there had been no public notices or press releases issued regarding the filling-in of the Lagoon by the Minister’s Office or by the Ministry of VROMI before the start of the works in early to mid December 2013. The Foundation therefore carried out some research into the matter and on January 8th and 9th 2014 Pride filed formal requests for copies of the permits and related documents issued to the Airport for the filling-in of the Lagoon at the offices of the relevant authorities.

The Foundation was supplied with copies of the requested information by the Ministry of VROMI a few weeks later and discovered some interesting facts. Contrary to Minister Lake’s claim in December 2013 that the filling-in of the Simpson Bay Lagoon was “done by the book” and that “written permission” had been granted, a permit for the filling-in of the Simpson Bay Lagoon was actually not issued until January, 8th, 2014! The Minister’s claim that proper procedures had been followed was therefore absolutely false.

It is perhaps interesting to point out that the permit for the filling-in of the Lagoon was issued on the same day that Pride requested copies of the permit. Was the permit only issued because Pride Foundation requested a copy of it?

To add severe insult to injury frequent location visits by Sint Maarten Pride Foundation board members and volunteers have exposed that none of the regulations stipulated in the permit issued by the Ministry of VROMI or the recommendations as listed in the Environmental Impact Assessment are being adhered to. These regulations which are intended to reduce the environmental impacts of the filling-in of the Simpson Bay Lagoon are being completely ignored.

Another point of interest is that the permit request for the filling-in of the Simpson Bay Lagoon as submitted by the Airport, requests permission for the filling-in of some 60,000 square meters of surface area yet the permit as issued by VROMI grants permission for quote “unknown square meters”!

The abovementioned facts give rise to the following questions;

·         Why did Minister Lake so blatantly misinform the general public about the filling-in of the Simpson Bay Lagoon?

·         Why was the filling-in of the Simpson Bay Lagoon allowed to take place for weeks before any permits were issued?

·         Why is it that the regulations of the permit finally issued on January 8th, 2014 are not being adhered to? Why is the Ministry of VROMI not enforcing the regulations as stipulated in the permit of January 8th, 2014?

·         Does the well-being of the Simpson Bay Lagoon ecosystem and the well-being of the Greater Simpson Bay area not interest the Minister?

In closing, please allow us to once again remind the general public of the importance of attending and actively participating in the Town Hall meetings organized by the Ministry of VROMI in preparation of the zoning plans for Sint Maarten. Sint Maarten Pride Foundation representatives will be present at the Town Hall meeting at the A. Halley Center in Simpson Bay on Tuesday February 25th, 2014 and the Foundation looks forward to seeing residents of the Simpson Bay Area as well as other interested persons there.

The Board of the Sint Maarten Pride Foundation

 

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