SHTA establishes defense fund for the environment

POSTED: 01/11/13 12:04 PM

GREAT BAY – The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association SHTA has opened up an Environmental Defense Fund EDF at the Scotia Bank which it intends to use to generate funds for action against the degradation of the natural environment and cultural heritage on St. Maarten.

The SHTA-EDF fund will enable residents, corporate citizens and organizations to provide financial assistance to St. Maarten’s environmental organizations so they can secure legal assistance in pursuing  compliance to local and international environmental policy and legislation on St. Maarten.

The fund will be chaired by Rueben J. Thompson who heads the SHTA’s Environmental Division. The SHTA has as part of an umbrella structure, several divisions which include the wholesale division, construction division, small and large hotel divisions and the environmental division.

The SHTA has taken notice of the recent (and on-going) filling-in of the Great Salt Pond with great concern. The association believes that government is jeopardizing the viability of our tourism driven economy by allowing and in many cases commissioning the destruction of St. Maarten’s Natural and Cultural Heritage.

As a board member for SHTA and Director of Environmental Division Thompson said, “The durability of St. Maarten’s tourism product largely relies on the level of nature conservation and environmental care and requires a balance between tourism and the environment.”

Tourism and tourism related services are the driving force of St. Maarten’s economy, accounting for an estimated 80% of the island’s economic activity.

According to the SHTA, “Long-term Sustainable economic development in St. Maarten, calls for sustainable tourism, (main economic pillar). Sustainable tourism in turn may be defined as tourism which is developed and maintained in such a manner and scale that it remains viable in the long run and does not degrade the natural, cultural and social environment in which it exists to such an extent that it prohibits the successful development of other activities now or in the future.”

In this context the SHTA has mentioned the 2009 documentary in the National Geographic Traveler Magazine which spoke at length about the environmental conditions on St. Maarten. The article spoke of the extent of development on St. Maarten. These sentiments have also been issued by local environmental organizations, other residents, return visitors, international experts and a number of well read publications.

The National Geographic Traveler article stated, “Dutch St. Maarten is in trouble. St. Martin, the French Side of the island, is promising in terms of balancing development with the natural resources. The environmental and ecological quality of Dutch St. Maarten is threatened by overdevelopment.”

It also stated, “This island presents one of the best examples of what islands should avoid in tourism development. Tourism has gobbled up the culture of the island, which now is defined by the hotels, casinos, and other modern developments-not the islands historical, artistic, culinary, or other local heritage. Quality of life is a major consideration for residents as well as visitors.”

Those persons interested in donating to the fund in defense of the Environment can deposit funds directly to the Scotia Bank account number# SHTA ACC  1015922   or by way of check delivered to the SHTA office in which you specify that it is for the EDF.

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