SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Governments uncontrolled landfill, located in the heart of St. Maarten is severely contaminating the air but also leaching toxic materials into the ground and the Great Salt Pond, the St. Maarten Development Movement (SDM) said in a statement on Thursday.
“A major environmental liability. In addition, the landfill could be at risk of exploding and this is not your regular tourist attraction. "In light of the current situation in which some households where asked to evacuate and businesses were forced to close down or endured a loss of income due to a decline in clients, I believe the public has a right to know what governments intentions are in solving this on the short to long term", says Benjamin Ortega, leader of the St. Maarten Development Movement.
“SDM is fully aware of the attempts to out the fire. SDM also applauds the Prime Minister for taking the right decision in closing down schools and buildings in the area. But what will be done next? Will students and civil servants just return to work when the smoke is gone? Or will the buildings be tested for dioxin levels first and maybe even asbestos. The public has no idea what was burning exactly and which toxins where released. Irma caused a lot of damage to older buildings that could have contained any kind of toxic materials that were brought to our landfill.
"As aspiring parliamentarian it’s my duty to speak on behalf of all affected by this and to address the government on what seems to be a lack of action, which is the purpose of this press release".
“Landfill fires happen all over the world and could be caused by spontaneous heating and ignition of materials. This time around it was mentioned to be the result of arson. No matter what the cause it’s obvious that the failing of numerous governments (past and present) is exposed. Many solutions have been proposed in the past. In 2016 for example short to long term solutions were proposed by the SER.
“SDM would like the current government to take these solutions in consideration and make decisions. SDM sees government as the responsible actor to take the lead, but stresses the relevance of partnering up with public and private stakeholders that could play a role. Kingdom partners in the region that deal with similar issues as small island development states are also suggested.
"We simply cannot afford to look at anything as a micro issue. Sint Maarten is in dire need to get back on track as a sustainable economy and society. Strategic planning is a requirement which according to our adopted Sustainable Development Goals Agenda requires amongst other goals Good Governance as well as Establishing Partnerships. SDM has presented solutions in the past that are in line with what has been advised by the SER. Our movement will continue to actively seek and present solutions that benefit the people of St. Maarten in a sustainable way.”