Pride demands compensation for Great Salt Pond destruction

POSTED: 09/17/12 1:42 PM

GREAT BAY- “Extremely disappointed” were the words vice president of the St. Maarten Pride Foundation Rueben Thompson used to describe his feelings towards the government’s decision to build a cricket stadium and race track near areas considered to be of historical, cultural and ecological significance by environmentalists and other citizens.
“We find it very unfortunate that this cricket stadium is being built in the Great Salt Pond, filling is already taking place. That also goes for this race track. We believe these two projects are not necessary at all. Waste management deserves priority over this. These projects could have even been placed in another location where no body of water would have been affected. The Great Salt Pond is also a registered national monument; it is a huge disgrace that government is doing this project in such close proximity to the eastern side of the pond which is a national monument,” Thompson said.
Since he confirmed last Wednesday that both a cricket stadium and drag racing track would be built on Pond Island, Deputy Prime Minister William Marlin has come under heavy criticism for the move which appears to be shrouded in secrecy.
A consistent watch dog for infrastructural development in several districts, Pride said that it was still in the dark as to whether any permits were requested for the project, whether they were issued and if so when were they put on public review.
“Any opportunity for the public at large to have some sort of information about this would have been good. We would also like to know which minister did that. The Great Salt Pond is really the cradle of our nation, it is the reason why St. Maarten was colonized in the first place, it is the reason why many of our ancestors were forcibly transported to St. Maarten during the times of slavery. It is a part of our heritage and has become a part of our culture. The Great Salt Pond should have been protected in its entirety,” Thompson said, adding that it should be cleaned up rather than filled up.
St. Maarten once boasted of remarkable biodiversity and more than 19 wetlands but today they have been reduced to 5. The organization says that since the project is already being executed, it is demanding compensation in the form of a commitment to protect the remaining wetlands.
“Ideally speaking this project should be stopped and taken elsewhere but if they refuse to do so they should compensate us. We demand that government protects the rest of the island’s wetlands and the remainder of the Great Salt Pond,” Thompson added.
Some of the wetlands that Thompson speaks of are Mullet Pond, Little Bay Pond, Red Pond and the Fresh Pond. It has also been recommended that mangroves be purchased in the area of the salt pond to serve as the border so that no additional filling for future development will go beyond that point.
On Friday Pride visited the area where it said it observed that garbage at the location was being dumped into the salt pond.
“I’ve seen zinc plates, roofing, tires and other forms of debris are all being covered by sand rather than removed. If you look at the statements that were made at the opening of the parliamentary year that there would be more care for our culture and our environment, this is extremely disappointing to say the least,” Thompson said.
Although many citizens are stunned by the announcement, Thompson said that he was somewhat surprised that residents in the Madame Estate, Zagersgut and Sucker Garden have not been more vocal about the ramifications of the new projects, especially since the race track is planned for the North-Western side of the Salt Pond.
“People should really be more vocal about that because it is going to cause a lot of noise with all of these cars and bikes racing up and down the place. People should be aware of that.”
Last week, Marlin defended the two projects saying that sports would greatly enhance St. Maarten’s tourism product.
“The cricket stadium and the race track form part of the government’s program to develop and promote sports tourism. By having a cricket stadium that is suitable for hosting international events we will be able to attract people who under normal circumstances would not be on St Maarten,” Marlin said.
The deputy prime minister however pointed out that the spin off from the cricket field which is ideally situated near to Cost U Less is evident when teams visit the island. “You have teams from St Kitts, Antigua or Anguilla. People sail in and fly in and if they were capable of walking in from those destinations, they would do so as well,” Marlin added.
As Today reported last week, among the changes that will take place as a direct result of the new development is that the area that is now used for crushing cars and other items on Pond Island will be re located. However a location has not been identified and an access road is scheduled to pass through a section of the ground which has been used for a cricket field for a number of years. The blue print for both projects has already been reviewed however where the funding is coming from and who the principals are, is yet to be ascertained.

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