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Several global nature preservation organizations and local conservation alliances have condemned the plans for the construction of new unloading and transhipment docks for crude oil right in the middle of the Willem Alexander marine reserve in Bonaire. The World Wildlife Fund, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA), and the Stichting Nationale Parken Bonaire (STINAPA) are among those organizations voicing their concerns, as the construction of the new docks would result in irreparable damage to one of the island's healthiest coral reefs.
Nature's maternity room
You might not be aware of this fact, but the sea around Bonaire actually represents one of the oldest protected marine areas in the world. As a result of this, the reef as a whole is still in relatively good state and this plays a major role in maintaining Bonaire's diverse and unique marine life. Lots of fish and other marine animals grow up in the coral reefs around the island, while they also provide a home and a hunting ground for sea turtles, sharks, and many other special animals.
At the same time, Bonaire's coral reef is under heavy pressure from global climate change, as well as pollution and disturbing human activities in the area. In order to face challenges, the island authorities have come up with the Natuur- en Milieubeleidsplan Caribisch Nederland 2020-30 (Nature and Environment Policy Plan Caribbean Netherlands 2020-30). The goal of these new policies is to lower the pressure on the coral reefs in the region and to give damaged reefs the time to recuperate. The plans also propose to make natural and environmental values a binding indicator when it comes to infrastructure projects, which includes sustainable energy projects.
The questions then remains though, how to improve the power supply on Bonaire and the rest of islands in the Dutch Caribbean? Because despite the serious environmental issues surrounding the plans to build a new crude oil installation in the Willem Alexander marine reserve, power outages are still part of daily life in many parts of the region and a solution for a more stable power supply is still a necessity.
In that light, the worried organizations propose several alternatives in regard to both infrastructure and general development of the island. They urge the Dutch government to reconsider the location of the new docks and to find a solution using the island's existing infrastructure. On top of that, they are asking for a more serious focus on the development of sustainable energy sources on Bonaire and the other islands, such as solar and wind power.
Finally, the plans for the new crude oil docks are entirely contradictory to what the Dutch government has shown as being an important priority in the recent past. About a year and a half ago, the Dutch ministry for Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality even donated seven million Euros for the protection and conservation of Caribbean coral reefs,while a few months after that, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke of “working on the protection of coral reefs and their importance to the world's biodiversity” during the United Nations summit on biodiversity. The question is now how much all of those promising initiatives and nice words are worth to Bonaire's coral reefs.
The basis for this article was originally published on www.naturetoday.com on April 23rd, 2021.