Frans: Environmental protection, sound economy goes hand in hand

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Member of Parliament (MP) Frans Richardson

PHILIPSBURG, Sint maarten — Leader of the United St. Maarten (US) party MP Frans Richardson on Monday said that unparalleled changes on the island over the past decades have not only reduced areas of ecological value but have also undermined the durability of our economy.

“No other island in the Caribbean has sacrificed as much of its natural resources as St. Maarten,” Richardson said in outlining how his party plans to employ sound management of St. Maarten’s natural resources.

“The proper management of natural resources has, however, never been high on the political agenda of most of St. Maarten’s decision makers. Disregard for the island’s natural resources and poorly planned development has prevailed for more than four decades. As a consequence, there has been a tangible reduction in the amount of green area, an almost systematic destruction of areas of recreational and natural value and an overall reduction of the island’s level of biodiversity,” he said.

He added that as tourism and related services are the driving force of St. Maarten’s economy, sustainable development in St. Maarten calls for sustainable tourism—tourism which is developed and maintained in such a manner and scale that it remains viable in the long run, does not degrade the natural environment, and does not prohibit the successful development of other activities.

The MP added that the durability of St. Maarten’s economy, particularly job creation and job security, greatly depends on nature conservation and environmental care. “The United St. Maarten Party believes that in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of St. Maarten’s economy, we must find, implement and enforce ways to encourage and stimulate economic growth while protecting the natural environment, improving the overall quality of life of all residents and enhancing the on island experience of our many visitors,” he said.

He stressed that USP will introduce legislation, policies and plans aimed at the responsible management and restoration of our country’s natural resources. Richardson has a history of championing environmental affairs by partnering with local environmental organizations to table parliamentary motions in support of the protection of Mullet Pond, the Emilio Wilson Estate, Fort Amsterdam, including Natural and Cultural Heritage education in the school curriculum and banning plastic bags.

The USP’s approach will include, but will not limited to: including standardized local natural heritage education in primary and secondary school programs, guaranteeing sound enforcement of and adherence to existing policies and ordinances, compiling, implementing and enforcing additional environmental legislation and policies such as an environmental policy plan, a nature policy plan and zoning plans, facilitating the carrying-out of economic valuation studies of Natural Heritage (including economic valuation of ecosystems) and establishing an independent Environmental and Social Impact Assessment review council.

“St. Maarten’s natural surroundings, including ponds, lagoons, hills, valleys, beaches, the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean and coral reefs, play an important role in our daily lives and have a positive effect on our health and overall well-being. Members of the general public, environmental groups, visitors, local and inter- national experts have long pointed out that St. Maarten’s natural resources are of considerable socio-economic value and must be properly managed,” Richardson said.