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|Impact development Oostpunt on coral reef remains unclear after hearing|
|Wednesday, 31 October 2012 16:42|
WILLEMSTAD — The public hearing held by the Ministry of Traffic, Transport and Regional Planning (VVRP) last night in the Community Center of Montaña to inform the public on the plans with Oostpunt was well attended. The consultants presented a plan that offer the possibility for tourist development along the South coast consisting of five resorts/hotels with marinas, surrounded by residential areas along the lagoons of Oostpunt. The possible effects on the very valuable coral reef were left outside of consideration.
The hearing was part of the information round from the government to amend the National Regulation of zonings of the terrains at Oostpunt. At a great pace the approximately 100 people present, including representatives from several ecology organizations, received a presentation lasting more than two hours from two American consultants on the ‘Zoning Plan’ for Oostpunt.
The ministry stated yesterday that no objections could be lodged against the plans, only a written explanation of ‘view’. This view can be made known within 30 days and will then be presented to the minister. The draft National Regulation will subsequently be presented to the Parliament. The latter could request further information from the minister.
Based on field studies the consultants stated they made ‘an environment/ecology evaluation of the present nature areas and animal species such as mangroves, marshlands, special rock formations, caves with bat populations, flamingos and other special bird species’. The consultants also made an evaluation of the infrastructure and existing constructions of cultural value, on the basis of two field studies of which one had lasted five days and the other ten days. During the explanation on the possibility to build a cluster of resorts in the lagoons, the possibility was also raised to build bungalows on the slightly wider border of the lagoon. The plan also offers the option for several golf courses: a large golf course along the north coast and one along the south coast in between the lagoons.
The two consultants also indicated to ‘have thoroughly studied the available data/studies on the area at Oostpunt’ prior to making recommendations. After the presentation and the question round from the public it is still unclear which data and studies are involved. The two consultants, Ted Wolff from ‘Wolff Landscape Architecture’ and Eric Schwarz from ‘Langan Engineering & Environmental Services’, stated repeatedly that this only regards one ‘zoning plan’ for possible development, which exclusively focuses on developments on land. The coral reef is hardly included in the explanations.
Schwarz’ remark that he hadn’t taken a dive ‘but looked over the edge of the reef’ caused some surprise. During his explanation on the possibility of development within the lagoon, also Wolff caused frowns when he remarked: “This part of the coral reef, which has the status of and is managed as Marine Park, in principle doesn’t differ from the other part of the south coast of the island”. He further thinks of the possibility to build marinas in the lagoons whereby the lagoons ‘could be opened in part’. The questions regarding the impact on the nature and coral reef with actual realization of development – that could possibly be realized based on their ‘zoning plan’ – are repeatedly brushed aside with the argument that ‘it regards the actual implementation of the developments’ which falls outside their task in the drawing up a plan.
Recommendations are made on using methods and technologies for permanent development whereby environment conscious waste management, cooling with deep sea water (SWAC), wind energy, solar panels and division of overcapacity (Aqualectra is yet to revert to this option), collection of rainwater and recycling of storm water. The public is not given an answer to the question whether these recommendations will actually be adopted after a zoning revision of the area. The final project developer or investor is to determine this. Considering the conclusion that 53.9 percent of Oostpunt can be development, Aqualectra was asked if there is sufficient electricity and water capacity for the additional development. “The utility company indicated to have expansion plans and that the particular development would not be a problem”, said Wolff, causing laughter from the public. The argumentation regarding infrastructure is that there will be less commuting by the residents of this area to Willemstad owing to sufficient accommodation and employment. “This could even have a positive influence on the heavy traffic on the island’. “We believe that the roads to the resorts should be built as straight as possible and follow the closest route along with building a loop-formed connection road, with forks of course”, said Wolff.
The public remarked: “Such a revision of zoning could be considered as giving the government carte blanche, because afterwards there is no guarantee the nature will not be spared of damaging forms of development”.