ORANJESTAD, ARUBA – Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba (FPNA) is a non-governmental nature conservation organization (NGO) formally designated by Land Aruba as the manager of various terrestrial and marine nature reserves. FPNA has the responsibility to
protect and restore natural values where necessary – including biodiversity, ecology, and natural resources – for the benefit of nature and people, for both current and future generations. To meet these objectives as best as possible, FPNA first had to ring the bell with the government behind the scenes and then utilize an open letter about involvement in and timely sharing of information about development projects and activities directly next to or in the proximity of FPNA’s management areas.
The Foundation has noticed that in recent years an increasing number of construction projects or activities are taking place directly in, directly next to, or in the vicinity of nature reserves, which have an impact on the habitats, flora, and fauna contained therein. It is important to realize that nature reserves are not defined as ‘parks’ in which nature neatly adheres to the area boundaries and thrives within them forever without any exchange with the outside world. The nature reserves of Aruba are simply too small for that and many species tend to move freely over the island. Nor do the area boundaries stop all disturbances from outside. This includes, for example, light, air, soil, and water pollution or noise nuisance in the vicinity that can indeed cause a disturbance in a nature reserve for the health of the local nature and the plants, animals, and other organisms contained therein.
Because FPNA is not included in such activities on time or even not at all and often has to hear through the press – when a project has already started – what is going on, the Foundation is increasingly forced to rigorously sound the alarm for any mitigating measures. to be able to demand and implement measures to avoid or reduce the impact on the nature reserve and the flora and fauna included. This can also be concluded from the lawsuits that FPNA has recently had to conduct to demand, among other things, a thorough environmental impact assessment (EIA) and (citizen) participatory process in which relevant stakeholders must be involved instead of just developers and certain government departments and departments.
After receiving the open letter from FPNA of February 11, Minister Arends, the Minister of Nature, among others, took immediate action and ensured that FPNA was included as an important stakeholder in the Aruba Port Authorities (APA) dredging project for the maintenance of the cruise ship canal. . The Marine Protected Area (MPA) Oranjestad is located on both sides of this canal and the dredging activities could potentially have an impact on this part of Parke Marino Aruba. For example, a researcher from FPNA was able to accompany a researcher from the Directorate of Nature and Environment during a one-off ‘dive field survey’ in which the marine flora and fauna were inventoried using a common method. An endangered species were identified as well as signals indicating a nursery function for an important species for fisheries – something not previously observed for this species by FPNA and DNM. This nursery normally remains protected and can therefore cause an ‘overspill’ effect to neighboring areas, given the inaccessible location in the harbor it protects. Directly next to the dredging project, various types of young corals – all protected species – were also discovered that we’re still in a particularly healthy condition. It is important to continue to monitor them and move them if necessary because these corals could be important for the recovery of our degraded coral reefs because of their ‘resilience’. FPNA will continue to monitor these corals and nurseries, as well as possible sludge contamination in the adjacent MPA Oranjestad.
For this dive reconnaissance, the dredging project had to be postponed for several hours, which could have been avoided by involving both DNM and FPNA much earlier in the project. Also, ideally, such a recording of a larger area would take place at different times, but there was no time for that anymore. Normally, a sound environmental impact statement (EIA) is produced for such projects. However, Aruba has not yet developed a policy for this. To a certain extent, nature and the environment are taken into account in the ROP 2019 and ROPV 2021. Nevertheless, due to the often lack of expertise and stakeholder participation, important decisions and activities are still being taken without taking into account the complexity of nature and the environment. To ensure a sustainable future for Aruba, environmental and conservation criteria should also be included as standards for good practices. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel in that regard: there are international norms, standards, and guidelines that should also apply to Aruba. The international companies Aruba works with are all familiar with this.
Infrastructural development is considered one of the most important activities for Aruba’s economic progress, although it causes fragmentation of nature and landscape ecology, and the loss of biodiversity, with a decline in species richness and diversity at various scales. The planning and roll-out of infrastructure projects should not only be used from an economic point of view. Projects and activities should also be tested for their social and ecological effects. Only when these are favorable and in balance can we speak of sustainability.
As of this article going to press, FPNA has not received a response from the Minister of Tourism or the Minister of Spatial Development and Infrastructure. However, FPNA still hopes for a positive response and recognition from these ministers.