Landfill problem must be solved, says Knops

THE HAGUE–The St. Maarten landfill is a top priority of Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops. “The situation is unsafe for the people. It is high time that a structural solution is found for this thirty-year-old problem.”

Knops will be in St. Maarten for one day on Monday, together with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The landfill is one of the topics that will be discussed with the St. Maarten Government, as well as with St. Martin Préfète Délégée Anne Laubies and President of the Collectivité Daniel Gibbs during a tour of the Simpson Bay Lagoon.

The tackling of the landfill and a structural waste management system will be one of the larger projects in the comprehensive reconstruction programme that will commence shortly based on the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), to be funded through the Trust Fund managed by the World Bank.

“The landfill is a big priority for me,” said Knops on Wednesday, after the Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting. “After 30 years this matter still hasn’t been solved and it is only getting worse. The situation is unsafe for the people on the island; government buildings and schools have to be closed on a regular basis. Besides, it is not a welcoming sight for tourists.”

Knops referred to the (burning) landfill as a “toxic cloud” and a “shame.” “If you don’t consider the landfill a top priority, then you are busy with the wrong priorities. This needs to be solved, period. If you can solve this matter then you will also solve a number of other issues,” he said in response to questions posed by The Daily Herald.
Tackling the landfill is a very large project that will not be easy, he noted; because of the size of the project and its urgency, the State Secretary wants to work with French authorities, French St. Martin and the European Union (EU) on this matter. Experts and the World Bank will be involved.

The landfill will surely come up in the talks that Prime Minister Rutte and he will have with Laubies and Gibbs of St. Martin about the cooperation between the countries during the boat tour on the lagoon on Monday afternoon, said Knops.

Asked about his upcoming visit together with Rutte, the State Secretary said that it would provide the Prime Minister with the opportunity to get a first-hand impression and to “see for himself” what progress has been made with the reconstruction on the three Windward Islands.

The visit to St. Maarten on Monday and the visit to St. Eustatius and Saba on Sunday, will also serve to become informed on the latest developments; to meet the interim cabinet in St. Maarten; to discuss the cooperation in the law enforcement sector between the Netherlands and St. Maarten; and, to get an update on the situation in St. Eustatius. “There is enough to talk about within a relatively short time, so we will have to get a move on,” said Knops.

This is the second visit of the State Secretary to the Windward Islands in two weeks. From April 29 to May 2, Knops visited respectively St. Eustatius, Saba and St. Maarten together with Dutch Minister of Justice and Security Ferd Grapperhaus.

Source: The Daily Herald