Oranjestad, St. Eustatius -Director of St Eustatius National Parks STENAPA Erik Boman met with the State Secretary of Infrastructure and Water Management Ms Stientje van Veldhoven, her delegation, Governing Commissioner Marcolino Franco and Deputy Commissioner Mervyn Stegers on Tuesday morning.
Boman explained how the infrastructure and water management influences the coastal environment and what main issues are which affect these areas. The discussion began with a focus on the impact of sediment run-off, erosion, eutrophication and pollution and how these land-born stresses influence the health of the reef.
The island has been experiencing erosion as well as run-off with high sediment load, particularly evident in Oranjebaai during heavy rainfall. Sediment in the water column blocks sunlight which the corals rely on and once settled can smother the corals.
Eutrophication, due to the release of untreated sewage from sewage pits, leaking and overflowing septic tanks. The high nutrient load is beneficial for the algae on the reef which then grows faster than the reef-building corals and competes for space. Although outside of Ms van Veldhoven’s portfolio, the negative impact of roaming animals on the terrestrial vegetation and on erosion was also brought into the picture.
A few projects on the islands are underway, which aim to tackle some of these issues. However, if further extensive measures are not taken to remedy the situation, the island will experience further decline in reef health and subsequently declining coral cover and fish populations with wide negative economic impacts.
Several points of interests were pointed out during a boat tour, which gave an overview of the impacts from a water perspective. Solutions discussed include completing the water catchment system, ensuring septic tanks are functional and not-overflowing, legislation and regulation of water management, paved roads (with water catchment), marine spatial zoning and others.
St Eustatius will continue to benefit greatly from a healthy reef system. Fisheries will have a healthy and sustainable fish stock to feed the island from. Dive centers will be able to market our reefs to a global market which will improve our tourism product. As a nature destination, the increase in tourist visits should have a positive economic effect island wide.