Bati Bleki Buzz, Weekly Recap, June 30th, 2020

The S.H.I.T. show

An interesting document landed in my mail box titled Preliminary Business Case for RWZI Bubali Aeration System. (RWZI=Riool Water Zuiverings Instalatie)

The 34-page technical report by TNO, which is an independent, a-political entity, outlined the potential problems associated with high-risk for calamities to our environment. The report also outlines scientific solutions, all concerning the subject of the Bubali Plas.

While the island is full force into an expansion of its room inventory, we don’t seem to be planning for additional waste and grey water dumping which accompany such growth. Remember Bubali Plas is 50 years old, and had not been seriously renovated. We keep pouring our waste into it and hope it will come out the other end relatively ‘clean,’ serve our farmers for agriculture, maintain our golf courses, and send the overflow into our ocean harmlessly.

We hope.

In reality, Bubali Plas, is full of s.h.i.t.

It can no longer handle the amazing quantities of waste we produce. It is running at 50% efficiency, and costing a ton of money to run, because of these inefficiencies.

A presentation about the subject was already made in parliament in December and the MinPres got an educated overview of the situation; insiders are confident she will undertake the first step, which is assigning a group of experts to measure how much water we are dealing with.

Basically, a study of needs that will run GOA about US$200.000, and provide the roadmap for the upgrade of the plant, and the replacement of the current aeration system. And that’s urgent, if we want to prevent further damages to the eco-system, and prevent potential overflows into the hotel area. Price tag: A mere US$30 to US$40 million

The following is part of the TNO report summary:

Based on existing calculation the current aeration system for whatever we deposit into Bubali Plas, cannot achieve the oxygen level required to break it down, and ‘clean’ it. The current efficiency is lower than 50% and has a negative impact on the wetland at Bubali Plas. Because Bubali Plas runs the overflow into the sea, it may cause irrecoverable damages to marine life. The high level of ‘nutrients’ in the water we dispose into the ocean, affects our coral reefs negatively, resulting in beach erosion. Of course, this may affect tourism, but if we WANT tourists, we’d better come up with a treatment plan of their wastewater!

TNO already purchased the equipment to conduct the study and the measurement. It is in Aruba, waiting for GOA’s green light.

Interestingly enough, TNO was the outfit that measured and assessed the reported diesel-fume issue at the hospital. TNO establishing at the time, that the air was safe, and that a bit of mass hysteria or autosuggestion generated the hoopla, and that in reality, the hospital environment was diesel-fume free.

So, yes, go ahead, give us a wastewater treatment management plan, that will start with the feasibility study, then a RFP, a request for proposal, and finally the expansion, with the sewage reorganization and treatment plan in tow, for a total integrated water resources plan.   

The Road to Sustainable Tourism I

Jim Hepple’s recent presentation at the Raiz Symposium took 6 minutes and 47 seconds. And it was loaded with ear-popping information.

Take-Away: As an island-nation we are in a tough position, we need wise leadership, we need good-decision-makers, otherwise we’re up the famous creek without a paddle.

Jim opened his presentation by listing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Why? Because Aruba committed to meeting these by 2030, so any legislation we pass, must adhere to those.

And you, my dear reader, should familiarize yourself with them.

Most people, when talking about sustainability mean the protection of nature, but the UN included many other equally important aspects, the eradication of poverty & hunger the protection of food supplies and energy, reduction of inequality, education, climate change, ocean protection, a total of 17 Development Goals, 169 Targets, and 232 Indicators, according to Hepple.

We have a long road ahead of us, and thus, you’d better get to know the material.

After stating the importance of a road map – you should read that what he meant was road map equals goals, he listed SOME CONCERNS:

“How many more people can Aruba reasonably hold? – Aruba is the 21st most densely populated country in the world with 1,603 persons per square mile. – Saint Maarten is 3,095 persons per square mile.”

Does Aruba want to follow in SM’s footsteps.

“We are a relatively wealthy country, which means we are expensive. Aruba’s GDP per capita is $37,500, #35th in the world. It is the highest in the Caribbean region: Bahamas US$32,000 per capita; Trinidad and Tobago US$32,000 per capita; Dominican Republic US$17,000 per capita.”

We pay our people more, we have a higher standard of living, AND we have to continue earning top dollar to support our life-styles.

BUT, Hepple continues, “by 2040 32% of Aruba’s population will be over 60 years old. Our pensioner population of 60+ will expect their pensions to be paid and their health-care bills covered. How can the 68% remaining percent carry that enormous financial burden? Do you want to take some of these benefits away from the elderly? How can you? The seniors are all voters, and their votes count.

According to SVB, which Hepple is quoting, Aruba’s population is projected to DECLINE without immigration, and because one of Aruba’s Key Challenges is to be economically sustainable and maintain a high standard of living, HOW DO WE CREATE ENOUGH WEALTH to support an ageing population? Without adding too many persons to the island??

That’s the million-dollar question.

Keep in mind, we have to import almost everything, thus we need to earn foreign currency to purchase the required imports. The only industry to date to do this for us is TOURISM.

What other industries would Aruba be able to dependent on, in order to create this wealth AND pay for these imports?

So far, we have been unable to diversify, we stick to tourism and it generates about 90% of Aruba’s GDP and employment.

Tomorrow more, about Tourism and Education, as recorded at the Raiz Symposium regarding Sustainable Tourism.

The Road to Sustainable Tourism II

Jim Hepple’s presentation at the Raiz Symposium took 6 minutes and 47 seconds. And it was loaded with ear-popping information.

Take-Away: As an island-nation we are in a tough position, we need wise leadership, we need good-decision-makers, otherwise we’re up the famous creek without a paddle.

This is part II

Back to tourism, our savior.

Because we need a sustainable economy, tourism must become sustainable, says Hepple.

But first the definition: Sustainable tourism is defined as a form of tourism that involves travelling to a destination as a tourist whilst trying to have a positive impact on the environment, and respecting a destination’s culture, environment, and its local communities.

But can tourism be sustainable? (Honestly, can you have your cake and eat it?)

We MUST find ways of minimizing the impact, and/or find ways where tourism can have a positive impact on the world.

And this is tricky, because, tourism can have a negative impact on resources that are being depleted, yet, it may have a good impact on people’s lives: increasing their wellbeing, giving people employment, and bringing economic benefits into an area that is suffering.

So, what kind of tourism does Aruba need?

Hepple states, that we shouldn’t grow the volume of tourists substantially but we should grow income from tourism. This is a challenge because world-wide, visitors tend to spend less per day/visit.

Moreover, there is an increased preference for all-inclusive vacations. But, fortunately, we don’t need that many visitors in absolute terms, but remember that we want to attract the type of visitor every OTHER destination is eyeing. We are after the same market.

Which means Aruba’s tourism will have to be highly competitive, highly efficient and highly focused. We must ask ourselves what kind of products and services do these kinds of tourists want? Can Aruba provide them? We have to deliver superior service which would allow us to charge premium prices, relative to our competitors.

And that is where Hepple tackles education.

Our education system, he says, has to provide the opportunity to learn applied-skills. We will need to provide superior service to be competitive. Our workforce will need to be highly trained. A key priority will be to ensure our workforce has high quality applied-skills as line staffers, supervisors or managers.

Our education providers must keep up with, and have knowledge of, modern and contemporary tech. And our labor laws must become more flexible while protecting workers.

The key to an efficient and competitive workforce will be flexibility to meet the needs both of the employees and the employers. And there is a need to enhance labor mobility for job growth. The workforce must be protected but not to the extent that it makes it difficult to hire young workers and to allow them to progress and grow.

It will be a challenge to attract more young people into our tourism industry, Hepple states. The industry finds it hard to recruit young people partially due to a lack of understanding of the opportunities in tourism.

We need to close the gap between the tourism industry and our educational institutions. And to better inform potential associates of the benefits of working in the sector, by exposing them in-depth to all its opportunities.

In conclusion, what does Aruba have to do? Aruba has to have a clear vision of where it is going and how it is going to get there.

The island is committed to reaching multiple sustainability goals by 2030. So it must develop a tourism strategy which meets the needs of this overall vision and strategy.

Equine Sanctuary Aruba (ESA)

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They, was a movie that left an impression. It depicted a number of desperate people, in the US depression-era, on the brink of breaking, willing to do anything to survive including signing up for a dance marathon, last couple standing wins, an insignificant amount of money.

When one of the contestants finds out how little money she stands to earn for her monumental sacrifice, she asks her dance partner to shoot her, take her out of her misery. He does. And when he is arrested his defense line is simple: They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

They show mercy to aging horses, why couldn’t he show mercy to a desperate friend?

The movie was huge. It received umpteen Oscar nominations, the most ever, but never made it to Oscar’s Best Picture.

Which brings me to ESA, Equine Sanctuary Aruba, they have a lovely website too:

Their goal they explain is to give unwanted, neglected, abused equines (horses, ponies, donkeys) a safe haven where they can live what’s left of their lives in peace and harmony.

With the United Nations Sustainable goals in mind, they enclosed a lovely piece of mondi in Brigamosa, it is a Garden of Eden, filled with local plants birds, a bee hive, and a bunch of domesticated brown chicken, that patrol and rule the territory.  

The old horses, so far just two, have access to food all day, hay, no pellets, and they can walk around as much as they want at any time, have a drink of water, stop and smell the roses, socialize with the chicken, the dogs, the cat, in essence, classic dolce far niente.

The horse manure is collected daily by their caretakers, and you are invited to come get some for your home garden in exchange for a bag of apples or carrots for the horses.

The sanctuary recently started a program whereby it invites kids suffering from autism to interact with the aging animals, allowing them a healing communication opportunity.   

The sanctuary, in Faye’s Ranch, is in its development stages, and it is inviting the community’s input, by way of accepting unwanted equines and by way of volunteerism.

From their website, currently looking for:

1. General care takers from 8-11am Monday to Friday
2. Professionals who like to give our equines a massage for injuries
3. Professionals who can do acupuncture for pain relief
4. Walkers (walking in the park with the horses by hand, mostly in the morning Mon-Fri)

As a starting foundation Corporate Governance is important. ESA has a qualified board who is knowledgeable and in possession of high expertise relevant to the objectives. The articles of incorporation provide a daily management structure for future employees and volunteers, with defined rules. The long term goals and objectives are statutory determined through an open dialogue with board, management, volunteers and other stakeholders. The yearly foundation financial and governance ethics are to be reviewed by an appointed certified accountant, whose opinion, including financial statements, will be published on the website.  

For a one-hour interactive lesson about horse/donkey care in the 21st century, call for an appointment. Frederique Drost at #738-1109

ATA, AHATA, AAA deliver ATCA 2019

The ATCA 2019 gathering brought key marketing players of the North American market to Aruba for four-days of intense business sessions, and nights of tropical magic.

Our tourism partners mingled with Aruba’s sales representatives from major cities in North America & Canada, working during the day and enjoying extravagant evening productions, at Renaissance Island, in San Nicholas and at the new Boy Ecury Park, in Oranjestad, all in honor of the 35th Annual Tourism Conference Aruba.

I walked in a bit late to the official opening at the Renaissance Convention Center, as the MinTour, was wrapping up his comments. He talked about satisfactory growth and I don’t think I heard anything new in his presentation, except the fact that Canada replaced Venezuela as our #2 market, but the room felt new. From layout to the choice of set materials.

The conference décor, was all made from reclaimed wood, pallets, geometrically framing the stage, and lit dramatically, with accent live ferns. The seating was diverse, some traditional theater style, some loungy, interspersed with high-top cocktail tables. The food offerings were different, mini smoothies & cute fruit parfaits, individual vegetarian quiche, mini wraps.

I thought it all meant that Aruba will customize and adapt, shrink giant hospitality concepts to boutique scale, abandon quantity in favor of quality, and seek to recycle and go green.

That was good. I took a picture of the Goshen sustainable farming display, and secretly prayed for the farm’s continued success, facing drought, heat, wind, and chronic lack of water – see article about defunct Bubali plas water plant.

Then our MinPres came on stage and she too talked about sustainability in her short address. And that was new and welcome. She integrated the word into her vocabulary, well.

The AHATA CEO, breezed through a 3-minute welcome note, she is very dynamic, and doesn’t require teleprompters, just before the morning’s key note speaker, the ATA CEO.

Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes assured the forum that business will continue to boom on a global scale, and that we should expect ongoing transformation, and the constant disruption of tourism, in the way it is created, marketed and consumed.

Bottom line: Expect continuous big changes.

I have been following her public addresses over the years, and while in the past she spoke about growth, she now clearly speaks about ATA’s core purpose, which is to drive prosperity for Aruba through sustainable tourism with data gleaned from a number of studies, one on Carrying Capacity, and another which developed a Niche Roadmap, both attempting to provide guiding principles for the Aruba Tourism Authority’s multi-annual corporate strategy for the period of 2018-2021.

I know she is now the totally converted high-priestess of “high-value low-impact tourism growth model,” and she understands what the island needs, and represents it. BUT with the island finances in the toilet, GOA seems to lean towards rapid, short-term growth, so chances are by the time Reina Beatrix Airport finishes construction it will already be too small with all the new stuff driven in by the MinTour and the MinInfra.

t was just an attention grabbing headline – disappointed face emoji

One June 26th I saw the headline: Killcage ta worda eliminate & Dog Act Shelter Ta Worda Crea. The FB article of Gabinete Wever-Croes enjoyed 28 shares, 26 comments and 189 likes and loves.

The public ate it up.

But before hiring the band and the dancing girls I decided to talk to the stakeholders in the unwanted animal arena, the Health Department, the Veterinary Services and the Aruba Animal Shelter.

Yes, they all said, we read about it in the newspaper.

So the jubilation was premature. But, good news nevertheless, a National Plan was hatched to eliminate the kill cage, the place where locals deposit their unwanted animals to be euthanized.

But it is not happening yet, for a plan like that to become a reality you need all hands on deck, from the very start. And the MinHealth was so far unable to meet his people for a pow-pow. Too busy.

I looked at the National Plan van Aanpak, the plan of attack, and asked where are the CATS?

Because cats are nocturnal, we don’t see them much, but we have a cat population-explosion, running parallel to the dog challenge.

With all efforts made in the past, and all diligent NGOs, we still did not manage to teach the locals to spay/neuter their animals. And that is the crux of the matter.

But the Plan of Attack contains excellent initiatives, besides the reduction of our street dog population, and the promotion of responsible ownership, it also aims at preventing illegal trade, read breeding, and importation of dogs.

One of the initiatives calls for Police involvement, enforcing the “Dog Law,” a flawed, but nevertheless helpful piece of legislation. Another speaks of registration and ID requirement, which I am all for, every owned-dog should wear a tag, his/her owner paid for.

Most importantly the plan has an educational component, calling for lectures at schools.

And GOA will take on more employees for the Animal Control Department, as Animal Control Officers.

But let’s get back to earth.

The tiny space we call the Kill Cage, cannot be transformed overnight into a holding facility where animals will be kept 10 days, until their fate is decided.

The space cannot turn into a DOG ACT SHELTER, without a serious investment. Ridiculous.

Until we educate all those who have no heart and no brain, we must operate an unwanted animal dumping facility otherwise puppies will be left to die in the heat, in the wilderness.

Please don’t come out slugging with catchy headlines: Ban serio. Get all stakeholders on board, perhaps the MinHealth could finally talk to him people, then start getting all involved.

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June 30, 2019
Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster