Welcome remarks by the Governor at the DCNA Board Meeting on April 20 2010


DCNA Board Meeting – SXM – April 20, 2010

Welcome remarks by the honorable Mr. F.E. Richards – Governor

Distinguished members of the board of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, DCNA; special guests from the Netherlands; ladies and gentlemen:

I wish to begin my remarks by extending a warm welcome to all of you, on behalf of the people and government of St. Maarten.

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St. Maarten is indeed a good venue for your board meeting, considering all that we have to offer in flora and fauna but also against the background of the many challenges which continue to face us as a developing island-nation.

As you would know, we have for many years had to consider the repercussions of a growing economy and how this stacks up against sustainable development, which is supposed to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for future generations.

Ladies and gentlemen, sustainable development ties together concern for the carrying capacity of natural systems with the social challenges facing humanity. As early as the 1970s "sustainability" was employed to describe an economy "in equilibrium with basic ecological support systems."

And so, ecologists have pointed to the limits of growth in order to address environmental concerns.

In other words, what we need to look at are environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and sociopolitical sustainability.

As such, it is necessary that we check ourselves and be self-critical of how we are moving forward.

Taking St. Maarten as an example, maybe I can mention a survey published in December last by National Geographic.

The survey was described as an assessment of authenticity and stewardship, evaluating the qualities that make a destination unique and measuring its "integrity of place."

A panel of 437 well-travelled experts in a variety of fields –historic preservation, site management, geography, sustainable tourism, ecology, indigenous cultures, travel writing and photography, and archeology was asked to evaluate only the places with which they were familiar, using six criteria, weighted according to importance: environmental and ecological quality; social and cultural integrity; condition of historic buildings and archaeological sites; aesthetic appeal; quality of tourism management; and outlook for the future.

Here is some of what was said about our sweet St. Maarten land…:

"St. Maarten/St. Martin has a split personality.

The Dutch side has casinos, fast-food restaurants, cruise-ship docks, and high-rise hotels. Tourism has gobbled up the culture. It is a typical mass-market tourism disaster. Hotel industry and cruise-ship companies don’t seem to understand the concept of "carrying capacity".

The French side is overbuilt but has so far avoided the fast-food joints, casinos and concentration of duty-free shops, but it still has problems, mainly too many hotel rooms and overcrowded beaches.

Dutch St. Maarten is in trouble. The environmental and ecological quality of Dutch St. Maarten is threatened by overdevelopment."

"St. Martin, the French side of the island, is promising in terms of balancing development with the natural resources.

"The threats to the environment are multiple, mainly on the Dutch part of the island. The strong development of tourism without all the necessary measures to address the environment is provoking damages, many irreversible. A change of mentality in the direction of a sustainable development is necessary, especially with regard to natural resources."

"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 island’s historical, artistic, culinary, or other local heritage. Quality of life is a major consideration for residents as well as visitors. There appears to be widespread interest in making changes."

Ladies and gentlemen, need I say more?

We obviously need to do more when it comes to applying high-level strategies to conservation work and learn about preserving our seas, lagoons and protected areas.

I applaud the nature conservation groups already very active in this area in St. Maarten; they are not only pioneers but sometimes the lone voice in the wilderness crying out when other segments seem to be dormant.

Ladies and gentlemen, my hope is that all stakeholders can reach a point where together all concerned can be guided by a framework— a systematic approach that determines works, what to conserve, what strategies we should use and how effective we have been.

We need a new vision to meet increasing threats of progress, climate change, natural disasters, damaging industrial practices and other dynamics which may continue to threaten our natural habitat and all that we are proud of on St. Maarten.

Our aim should be to create a St. Maarten, a region, a world in which the ecosystems that sustain all life — people as well as plants and animals — are valued and endure for generations.

Ladies and gentlemen, have a fruitful meeting and enjoy your stay and while doing so, don’t forget to visit our carnival village, and once more, ik heet u welkom, welcome, bonbini…


I thank you.