ORANJESTAD – The protest march against the windmill park at Urirama may have seemed small but the number of signatures in the petition and the reactions on internet clearly indicate resistance it still growing. Furthermore, NGO’s such as Aruba Birdlife Conservation, Stimaruba and Rainbow Warriors openly declared themselves against the project. Neighbors have meanwhile consulted a lawyer, because as Julia de Ruijter (activist from the very beginning) stated very clear at the hearing yesterday: “We will go to court if the windmill park goes through.”However, we haven’t reached that point yet. The hearing yesterday at the Edward Chueng Center was meant to inform residents and other interested parties on the report drawn up by energy consultancy Kema by order of Vader Piet Management and WEB. The report viewed the social and environmental effects for which noise pollution intensity was measured. This report isn’t final yet because it is to include the objections from neighbors and NGO’s. For that reason the auditors of the report and Vader Piet-director Henk Hutting want to know what the objections are and if certain matters are missing or incorrect in the report.
The hall was crowded and there were no positive reactions from the audience on the report. For instance, the fact that the noise pollution intensity was only measured for a very brief period and during low wind speeds. This also applies for the period of the investigation into the birds. Many disapproving sounds were heard regarding the conclusion that there were few birds during measuring and that the windmills will not affect the approach routes of migrating birds. The chairman of Aruba Birdlife Conservation, Greg Peterson, stormed out of the hearing because Kema hadn’t taken him serious. Peterson namely disagrees with the conclusion in the report on the consequences for birds. Also here criticism is heard that the investigation into the effects was inadequate and too short.
It is evident that the social consequences is an important deficiency in the report, such as the significance of the Alto Vista area, the consequences for tourists and the safety conditions for workers, which according to the so-called Equator Principles of the report, should have been included. Wim Kok from Kema said he understands the commotion on the religious meaning of Alto Vista and will ‘gladly include this in the report’. “We can only include this in the sense that we respect this aspect, what it means to the people. Look, I grew up in The Hague where churches are built along highways.”
The reactions in the hall further concentrated on the consequences for health and in that respect De Ruijter believes Kema hadn’t done their work well and proved such by presenting numerous reports from which it appears that people living close to windmills developed symptoms on the central nervous system and hearing. Someone also wondered what he should tell the bank if the value of his house goes down with 30-40 percent due to the windmill park. That protest is based on a verdict from the Supreme Court in Maastricht where a citizen was awarded damages regarding devaluation due to windmills.
Several violent reactions were heard now and then in the hall. The politicians and party supporters present were also against the project. Chairman of the Parliament, Paul Croes (AVP) remarkably declared himself against the park, while the green party in the parliament is yet to take a position. Director Hutting held his ground by stating among others that it is not he but the government who wants the second windmill park as part of the policy for more sustainable energy. He didn’t answer the question why the new windmills couldn’t be placed at the current park in Vader Piet. “WEB investigated this but it’s not possible from a technical-economical point of view.” The audience thought it’d explode when Hutting said he couldn’t answer that question because it wasn’t his department. Although WEB had been invited to the hearing none of their representatives had been spotted. However, after the hearing it appeared they were there, including spokesperson Asja Dongen. “We’ll present a separate explanation for this. If we had explained it this evening it would’ve only led to more confusion.”
After the hearing it appeared from reactions that the audience was left with a discontent feeling due to WEB’s attitude and the absence of a government representative. Consequently, there was hardly any confidence in the objectivity and soundness of the Kema-report. One absentee wondered what the procedure had been with the first windmill park at Vader Piet. A journalist stated that only a handful of people had shown up at the hearing for this park even though the nearest house stood 450 meters from the windmills. The minimal distance at Urirama is 850 meters. For that matter, the hearing for the park at Vader Piet took place only after the social and environmental impact report was definite and the government had given the green light for the project.
Vader Piet Management states it conducted a Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) on ‘a voluntary basis’ because it’s not a statutory requirement on Aruba. Nevertheless, the company wants to take great care of the environment because the aim is to generate clean energy. The company needs government land though to build the windmills at Urirama. The long lease conditions clearly state that for approval of the minister of Infrastructure companies must submit a feasibility study, environmental impact report (MER) and a Social Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA). Furthermore, banks also demand feasibility studies and impact assessments prior to granting capital. For that matter, Kemp mainly presents its report as a MER meaning that especially the impact on the environment is researched rather than the social consequences, said Wim Kok. During the presentation at the hearing yesterday, the abbreviation SEA was used. This is the common abbreviation for Strategic Environmental Assessment whereby the focus lies on the expected impact on the environment and alternatives are listed.
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