During his recent visit to The Hague, Commissioner of Infrastructure Bruce Zagers submitted two proposals for funding with regard to waste management and reforestation.
Zagers presented the reforestation proposal to the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW). The waste management proposal was present to the Ministry of IenW.
The reforestation proposal is about planting trees on Saba, not only in the area of the new harbor at Black Rocks, but throughout the island. Reforestation is necessary to prevent erosion which is mostly caused by the prolonged yearly droughts as a result of climate change and the large uncontrolled roaming goat population. Erosion is especially taking place at the drier coastal areas.
Increased erosion is a problem not only from a nature perspective but also for safety reasons. Many roads are impacted by increased erosion making driving in certain areas unsafe especially during and after rainfall. In some coastal areas some of the landslides go directly into the sea which negatively impacts the marine environment.
With goat culling project in progress, the natural foliage will be able to recover over an extended period of time. But to speed up this process, especially in the drier areas, a reforestation project is necessary. This will allow for indigenous tree species to be reintroduced throughout the island. The reforestation program should also include fruit trees which are positive for food security and help to reduce Saba’s dependency on imports.
Already in the planning is a small reforestation component in the harbor project. Reforestation at the Black Rocks area will also help to mitigate the impact that the construction of a new harbor has on nature.
The reforestation program could also help individuals with work opportunities who now have a distance to the labor market. These persons can be trained in tree grafting, irrigation and planting techniques which will ultimately provide a skill that can be used beyond this project.
The intention of the project is to plant 5,000 trees in two – three years. The project would start in 2022 when a good number of the roaming goats have been removed. The reforestation program fits in the Nature and Environmental Policy Plan, as do efforts to improve agriculture and animal husbandry. Hopefully in the coming months, the necessary funding for this initiative will be made available so that a start can be made.
As for waste management, Zagers explained in his proposal to the Ministry of IenW that while productivity and waste separation at the waste management facility have drastically improved, and the amount of waste being burned has drastically gone down, funding is needed to cover the increased operational costs.
Since 2019, the Saba Government has been working with an American company, Cadwell Inc., which has proven to be a reliable partner for Saba’s recycling and waste exportation ambitions. Since the partnership started, all metals, cardboard, plastics, aluminum, electronics and tires have been exported regularly in shipping containers to the USA for further processing. Thus far, a total of 1,300 tons or 2.6 million pounds has been exported. The trainings by Cadwell Inc. at the waste management facility in March this year have been generating very good results with an increased waste separation and a drastic reduction of the burning of waste in the air burner.
The exercise of accomplishing the improvements come at a price that cannot be sustained by the Public Entity Saba, especially not with a free allowance that is too low. The full costs of the operations and the exports cannot be passed on to the local population.
The financial breakdown that Zagers submitted to the Ministry of IenW listed what is needed additionally per year to continue the current operations, including covering the costs of exporting containers with recyclable materials, maintaining and replacing equipment, and the hiring of additional staff to sustain the operations.