The coral around Bonaire is in danger due to changes in the energy supply and a new port, nature organizations warn.

Editorial Trouw April 28, 2021, 13:27

It is the tragedy of the energy transition in a nutshell, says Lammert van Raan, member of the House of Representatives on behalf of the Party for the Animals. Bonaire could have made full use of solar and wind energy for a long time, he says. However, attention is now mainly focused on crude fuel oil. “The dirtiest option, but also the cheapest.”And that’s not even the worst. A new transfer pier may be needed to bring that crude oil ashore, which could cause irreparable damage to the coral, warn the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the nature organizations on the island. This also applies to the plans for a new port.

Bonaire is in a dilemma. The population is growing rapidly and a solid part of the economy consists of tourism. But the island itself produces almost nothing, almost all goods have to be brought in, just like the guests. The solution for the energy supply also comes from outside and that takes more effort since oil storage company Bopec ran into problems.

Bopec, which is owned by the Venezuelan state oil company, was declared bankrupt in March but had been out of business for several years. Bonaire therefore temporarily receives diesel by freighter from Curaçao. On the island, the fuel is transported daily by three or four tankers across the capital Kralendijk to the power station, Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen writes in mid-April in response to parliamentary questions from PvdDer Van Raan.

‘The cabinet wants to set up a new fossil infrastructure again’

To improve the energy supply on the island, the cabinet wants to establish the Bonaire Fuel Terminals (BBT). This is urgent, Minister Bas van ‘t Wout of Economic Affairs wrote to the House on April 19, because the permits for the temporary measures expire this summer, which will not only affect electricity production, but also that of drinking water and road and air traffic. danger, ‘with all the associated risks of social disruption’.Van ‘t Wout (the successor of Erik Wiebes, who resigned because of the allowance affair) received the green light from the House of Representatives last week for a ‘100 percent policy participation’ in the BBT, which will in fact become a state-owned company. Several parties in the House insisted on a greener approach. Due to an adopted motion by D66, ‘renewable energy’ is added to the founding act to ‘guarantee future-proofing’.

A motion by Van Raan to include sustainability in the energy supply as the main goal of BBT in the deed, by focusing on solar, wind and other alternatives and ‘phasing out the use of fossil fuels’, however, did not make it. “The government therefore wants to set up a new fossil infrastructure,” concludes Van Raan. “On a limited island, with plenty of sun and wind, it could have realized sustainable facilities for a long time.”

The coral around the island is in danger

Moreover, such an infrastructural intervention is at odds with previous agreements on the protection of the coral, says WWF in a response, also on behalf of the National Parks Foundation (Stinapa), Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) and the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance. A year ago, the cabinet decided to allocate 16 million euros for nature restoration on Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius, of which 7 million euros for coral restoration.

Although there are no construction plans yet, Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen emphasizes in her letter to Parliament, there are concerns about construction sites. At Karpata on the edge of the Koning Willem Alexander Nature Reserve, a transshipment pier for the crude fuel oil should be built and at Hato in Kralendijk a cargo port should separate the freight traffic from the cruise ships. In both cases, the coral around the island is at risk. “We are very concerned about nature”, says director Jan van der Ploeg of Stinapa. “The coral reefs on Bonaire are in better shape than in the rest of the Caribbean, but the state has deteriorated over the last thirty years. It is a very vulnerable ecological system that we have to be careful with.”

In the Koning Willem Alexander Nature Reserve, where the new transshipment pier should be located, snorkeling and diving are prohibited, says manager Kaj Schut of the sea turtle organization STCB. “It is relatively healthy, with high coral cover and lots of fish. It is therefore very important to first investigate whether existing infrastructure can be used and to properly map out the possible consequences for the environment and society.” Van Raan thinks that the old Bopec site can be used for the transitional period when fossil fuel is still needed on Bonaire. “That has already been affected anyway.”


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