It is a miracle that there are no deaths yet, so say citizens of Statia. They have been warning about the crumbling walls holding up the cliffs for years. Only now that a judge has passed sentence for the third time Dutch government is going to take action.
12.000 goats are estimated to roam the island. After rainfall, sand and fertile ground are washed away to the sea. Goats also roam high on the cliffs, loosening the rocks and boulders.
Last year again whole chunks of cliff fell on a building. Boulders fell through the roof of the water- and electricity company Stuco. There was no water, internet or electricity available for hours. But still citizens reacted with relief because the building had been empty at the time.
Why doesn’t anyone intervene? On Statia they say: no goat, no vote. No politician dares to intervene for fear of losing votes.
One fortress threatened to come falling down
Because of erosion even Fort Oranje, Orange Fortress threatened to fall down. Research into the dangers showed that other buildings like hotels, restaurants, and companies are at high risk. The same goes for the motorway.
Since 2017 the Haskoning/DHV company has urgently requested measures three times, but the government chose to only reinforce the cliff walls near Fort Orange. Further on, where there are restaurants and companies situated, they did nothing.
A fine everyday
The government of Statia has failed, so it appears from several court sentences after Eco Statia, owner of several buildings under the cliffs, went to court and won. The local government has known about the life-threatening situation for years but did not share the reports. Also under direct Dutch administration important information was withheld.
The Dutch government – which has been governing the island directly for five years – now admits that there is a ‘dangerous’ situation. And speedily allots 19 million euros for emergency measures.
“To wait a year longer is to have unacceptable safety risks one year longer,” said Secretary of state Alexandra van Huffelen (Kingdom relations). The cabinet will now take action.
It is also a monetary matter for the cabinet: the judge decided in December 2022 that for every day that no action is taken there will be a fine between 1000 and 5000 dollars. On average until now that means that an amount of 450.000 dollars of taxpayers’ money.
Mopping up with the tap wide open
In 2018 there was an amount of almost 800.000 euros available. The subsidized new plants and trees have been fenced off but because of the free-roaming goats all the other greenery disappears.
Three years later the Dutch government committee grandly announced that all the free-roaming animals would be transported to the slaughterhouse. The goats were in fact caught but then returned to the farmers. The cabinet promises now to take action once again.
Because the Dutch government didn’t take action nature preservers now see that the problem has gotten bigger in the last years. Also on the airstrip close to a cliff.