photo: The Daily Herald

ORANJESTAD – Environmental inspector Gershon Lopes sounded the alarm following confirmation of erosion on St. Eustatius. He said that the soil erosion could escalate into a major problem.

Initially wandering cattle was shamefully blamed; however it has become evident that because of human interference landslides have been taken place, especially on the eastern side of the airport’s runway.

“A new drainage system installed to channel water from the edge of the cliff does not work”, said Lopes. “Parts of the cliff are falling faster into the sea, and if nothing is done, it will collapse together with the end of the runway. As well will the drainage system that has caused the problem,” said Lopes. Stray cows, donkeys and goats damage the vegetation as a result of overgrazing, fertilization of the soil and erosion.

Lopes said more landslides are inevitable. “St. Eustatius must look into this erosion. We are losing ground and damaging our underwater life”, he pointed out. The inspector acknowledges that the local government has limited funding and insists on funding from The Hague for a thorough investigation into proper drainage on the island.

“We have already started catching loose cattle, which slows down the destruction, but we need more infiltration sources. The drainage system must be repaired as soon as possible.”

New plans
If this risky situation remains, aspects of the island’s cultural heritage are also vulnerable to disappearance. “The historic Fort Nassau is slowly sliding from the cliff into the sea. If we don’t do something to prevent erosion, then we need to push for new plans”, Lopes stressed.

He is keen on asking the Dutch government to provide the necessary funds to repair the drainage system. “The Dutch are masters in water management, and this is an area in which they can invest and make a vital difference in the daily lives of Statians”, said Lopes.