PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – The re-greening SXM project has improved the resilience of St. Maarten and successfully planted a total of 609 trees with the help of more than 192 volunteers last year. Albeit the challenges brought about by the pandemic, the project still managed to safely host 5 community clean-ups and 4 community planting events. Due to the great contribution of volunteers, the project was able to reach its successes and the following communities were left cleaner: Madam Estate, Little Bay, Great Bay, Arch Road, Illidge Road and Cole Bay. Currently 82% of the planted trees and plants are healthy and surviving! Besides, environmental awareness was raised among the residents and students to learn about the importance of nature protection and resilient communities.
The re-greening SXM project was launched to create a greener and more resilient island in 2020 by the Netherlands Red Cross in collaboration with the Nature Foundation St. Maarten. The Project aimed to restore and build environmental resilience here on St. Maarten last year. The Re-greening SXM Project was a component under the Netherlands Red Cross’ Disaster Risk Reduction Project, as part of the Hurricane Irma Recovery Programme. The project’s focus was to ensure ways in which community environments on the island will be better adapted to withstand future hazards and disaster impacts.
“This has been a great opportunity to initiate a program which links up environmental, disaster, climate, and community resilience. Indeed, the “Regreening SXM Project” did not only raise awareness among the volunteers and community members, but it also influenced various stakeholders such as the government, private sector, academic institutions, and civil society organizations, to come together and complement each other to build a stronger, greener, and more resilient Sint Maarten,” as stated by Martin Dacles, DRR Project Manager of the Netherlands Red Cross.
The Re-greening project was conducted mainly through the restoration of natural and native vegetation. Land ruin results in soil erosion and vegetative damage which in turn creates a higher risk of flooding. Vegetative restoration mitigates these impacts, builds resilience, and restores proper ecosystem functions.
“Working on this project has been a blast! I am incredibly pleased with all that has been accomplished throughout this project. I would like to thank everyone who came out and assisted in the project and gave up their time to build a more resilient St. Maarten. It was beautiful to witness the care, love, and passion for St. Maarten through this project.” voiced Ernika van Putten Project Leader of the Re-greening SXM Project.
“The Nature Foundation is grateful to see more trees planted on our island and the completion of this project. Tree planting will enhance our natural habitats and the environment, creating a more sustainable future. Our nature assists us to protect our island from disasters, such as flooding and storms, their enrichment is critical in the way to recovery and is needed to be prepared for future disasters. Without our natural vegetation, trees, mangroves, and coral reefs, our island would experience much larger impacts from flooding, erosion, and storms, therefore nature restoration activities are of utmost significance for St Maarten” stated Nature Foundation’s Manager Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.
Pollution along with soil run-off creates a blockade in the drainages. This ends up slowing down or completely stopping the water flow through these drainages. With heavy rains and hurricane winds added to this equation pollution from afar also ends up in the drainages. Therefore, proper disposal of waste everywhere is very important. For our environment to stay healthy, the community as a majority needs to take initiative on keeping the island clean. Once a healthy ecosystem is promoted, restored, and maintained in our environment, rest assured that our communities will become safer and better equipped to reduce the impacts of disasters. We would love to see that this project further affects the communities positively and that actions are sustained for a St. Maarten that can better withstand future hazards.
The Irma Recovery Programme will end during the summer months this year. The Red Cross will resume their regular activities. With disaster management prominent on the agenda of The Netherlands Red Cross and Red Cross St. Maarten, the Disaster Risk Reduction efforts will continue to strengthen St. Maarten beyond the Irma Recovery Programme.