photo: Fire at Parkietenbos - Source: Anouk Balentina

ORANJESTAD – A judge gave the government three months to tackle the nuisance caused by the public dump Parkietenbos. That deadline passed weeks ago without a solution in sight. But the individuals who live around the dump can no longer turn to the court anymore.

“There’s a different excuse every single time”, says Anouk Balentina, an inhabitant of the area, who started an expedited case in February and on the advice of the judge gave the government extra time.

But instead of working diligently to solve the problem, the government didn’t do anything for a month. Then Aruba experienced its first corona cases. That’s when the government said that they couldn’t fly in a technician because the borders are closed. The technician had to get the incinerator working. This incinerator is supposed to be used to burn amongst other things medical waste which is currently being burned in the open air at the dump.

A report by Sharina Henriquez

“In the battle against Covid, specialists were allowed to fly in to the island, even though the borders were closed. But not for the incinerator, while it’s also a public health issue. Just like in the past, this is not a priority for the government”, Balentina says. She has extra concerns at the moment, because of corona, about the medical waste being burned around the corner from her home. But also because studies have shown that individuals who live close to these dumps are susceptible to extra health risks if they contract the virus.

The government is ignoring the agreement made with the judge but the expedited case has also come to a standstill, says Balentina. The government has hired a Curaçaoan attorney who can’t be present due to the closed borders. Balentina says that the court suggested that the case could be continued via videoconference. But when she asked questions about this, the court decided adjourn the case.

“On Aruba we have less rights than other Dutch citizens in the Kingdom”
– Anouk Balentina, inhabitant Parkietenbos

The judge suddenly wants to do a location visit. “How can he determine if the situation has improved if he didn’t visit the site at the beginning of the trial? How can he make a comparison?”, Balentina wonders. She feels abandoned once more, she says.

“The judge on Sint Maarten quickly came to the decision to ban open air fires at the dump. The Office for the Public Prosecutor for Sint Maarten also added an amicus brief to the case the citizens presented. But I can’t even get a response to my statement here nor to my e-mails to the Office of the Public Prosecutor. On Aruba we have less rights than other Dutch citizens. Even though we live in the same Kingdom.”

Balentina has also written to the parties in Parliament, but they reply that it’s up to Aruba to solve to issues. During the past few days multiple fires have raged in the Parkietenbos. “I’m going to go international now, because there’s no other solution.” How or what she is going to do, Balentina doesn’t want to say yet.

Health research

Minister Marisol Lopez-Tromp, who has become responsible for the Parkietenbos and waste management on the island, says that she doesn’t want to comment on an ongoing case. Last year the minister for Health, Dangui Oduber, said that the inhabitants of the Parkietenbos area would participate in a major health research after a critical report from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) was released. That research has not happened yet.