Reader’s Letter: The Environmentalist’s response

POSTED: 09/21/12 1:17 PM

Please allow me to address the letters to the editor regarding the filling-in of the Great Salt Pond by a “Concerned Citizen” printed on September 17th, 2012 and by “G. Pontiff” published on September 19th, 2012.

Permit me to repeat myself and make it abundantly clear that I and the environmental organizations which I represent have always opposed and will continue to oppose any and all destruction of the Great Salt Pond or any of St. Maarten’s other remaining wetlands. Representatives of the Foundations learnt of the Cricket Stadium plans from articles in the local media and were only informed of the project by government in a meeting with the Department of New works/ projects after filling-in of the Great Salt Pond had already started.

We have made our position known in the media, to politicians and to the Ministry of VROMI, an official objection against the current filling-in of the Great Salt Pond is being compiled and will be formally submitted shortly.

The letter to the editor of September 17th, 2012 alleges the following: “The environmental groups say they can’t stop the projects, but will compensate with government for the protection of other ponds”. I don’t know where the author of this letter who is so conveniently hiding in the comfort of anonymity is getting this information from but his or her statements are certainly not based on any facts. It seems as if our statements are purposefully being distorted in order to mislead and misinform the general public.

We never said, “We can’t stop the projects”, we have repeatedly stated that we fervently oppose the destruction of the Great Salt Pond and that the filling-in should be stopped. We have pointed out that the Eastern side of the Great Salt Pond is a National monument and should be treated as such.

“The eastern side of the Great Salt Pond, an area called the Great Salt Pans (Grote zout-vlaktes/ pannen), has been identified and designated by the Executive Council of the Island Territory of St. Maarten as a monument (BC# 1172-08).; in doing so, government acknowledged the cultural/historical significance of the area and committed to protecting it”. (St. Maarten Pride Foundation and Environmental Protection in the Caribbean’s position statement on the Great Salt Pond Ring-road. February 2009)

EPIC and St. Maarten Pride have consistently lobbied for the protection of all of St. Maarten’s five remaining ponds. The ongoing filling-in of the Great Salt Pond, in spite of its national monument status has made the need to comprehensively zone and protect St. Maarten’s wetlands even more imperative. This is why in a recent meeting with the Ministry of VROMI and others involved with the Cricket Stadium and drag strip projects, the Foundation not only objected to these projects but demanded that Government immediately facilitates the protection of all remaining ponds, including the Great Salt Pond itself.

The letter goes on to accuse the environmental organisations of being cooperative without taking a stand to protect our Great Salt Pond. Another unsubstantiated accusation and attempt to defame the organisations. Dear so called “Concerned Citizen”, have you really been reading and listening to the news? We have publicly opposed the project! Hardly what I would call being cooperative. Where were you when we stood up against the filling-in of the Great Salt Pond for the Ring- Road project? Where were you when we objected to the causeway project? Where are you when we as Environmentalists are repeatedly threatened by some of our fellow St. Maarteners for the work that we do? What are you doing when I am out there lobbying, fighting to protect our Natural and Cultural Heritage? I’ll answer those questions for you based on the content of your correspondence, you are too busy playing politics, trying to mislead people and hiding in the comfort of anonymity.

Allow me to address the letter of September 20th, 2012 by a “G. Pontiff” titled: “The environmental groups are losing credibility”. The letter states the following in reference to the environmental groups: “The successes aside, it astonishes me how impotent they are becoming”.

Let us review this statement and look at this past year’s successes which Pontiff so easily brushes aside. This year alone, EPIC has provided Environmental Education classes and excursions to hundreds of St. Maarten students. EPIC and Pride successfully lobbied with members of Parliament to have three motions geared at the protection of St. Maarten’s environment presented and debated on in Parliament. One of the motions, the Ban on Plastic Bags was unanimously passed, the motion on the protection of Mullet Pond was voted down by a very slim margin. The motion to purchase and protect the Emilio Wilson Estate was voted down because certain members of parliament decided it was more important to play follow the leader than to protect St. Maarten’s natural resources. However, just a few months later, St. Maarten’s new government announced its intent to purchase some 370.000 square meters of the total 430.000 square meters of the Emilio Wilson Estate. A very important step largely accomplished by the environmental groups and the many like-minded residents who supported the efforts. Pontiff calls the environmental groups impotent, leaving me to wonder if he or she is really paying any attention at all. Does Pontiff think the need to protect St. Maarten’s natural and cultural heritage became a point of discussion on its own? We are not at all impotent. Thanks to the tremendous support of a large number of residents, years of dedication and hard work we have become “Nature’s Voice” and a force to be reckoned with. Pontiff calls for environmental groups to “grow a spine”. I would like to ask “Pontiff”, this hero behind a computer, to have a look at my questions to “Concerned Citizen”. Seriously, where are you when we are constantly in the public eye fighting to protect our natural resources?

Pride and EPIC oppose the destruction of St. Maarten’s natural and cultural heritage. With God’s good grace we will continue to successfully fight for the protection of St. Maarten’s heritage for years to come. EPIC and St. Maarten Pride Foundation are non-governmental foundations and will continue to lobby for the protection of St. Maarten’s natural and cultural heritage, regardless of which party is in government. Unlike the authors of the aforementioned letters, we do not hide in anonymity and we have no hidden agenda.

Regards,

Rueben J. Thompson

Environmentalist

 

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Comments (1)

 

  1. Basiliki Jerlinski says:

    An excellent and well thought out response to the destruction of the historic Salt Pond.

    This editorial should also be sent to Queen Beatrice as she recently stated that the biggest obstacle that SXM faces is having a transparent Government and sustainable public finances which were “very important” for the people and their confidence in the authorities.

    It seems that SXM has neither and so confidence held by the residents is waning dramatically.