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Can Bonaire become a better Green Destination with a Blue Economy?

On Thursday, October 26, 2017, the tourism office of Bonaire hosted their first Green Destination Conference. With many of Bonaire’s visitors having an active interest in nature, clean energy, and proper waste management, the conference provided attendees from Bonaire’s tourism sector with expert advice on how the island can become even more “green,” and, at the same time, develop a blue economy.

It’s not easy being “Green.”

Bonaire's windmill park at Morotin.In 2016, an initiative began to audit the results (at that time) of Bonaire’s efforts to become a sustainable, “green” destination. By definition, this incorporates more than just nature preservation and conservation, and includes the following aspects, which all must be present in some manner:

Bonaire is once again named to the Top 100 Sustainable Global Destinations for 2017!Bonaire’s strengths as a green destination.

Bonaire’s strengths were found to include:

Bonaire’s areas for improvement as a green destination.

The island’s challenges where improvement can be made were also identified:

  • Bonaire must address the issue of roaming animals which consume native flora
  • create better visitor monitoring with educational efforts as to how a visitor can minimize their footprint
  • climate resilience
  • additional wastewater management efforts
  • improving the local production of goods and local workforce
  • establishing sustainability standards for tourism businesses

Bonaire was awarded the Silver Quality Coast Award and named to the world’s Top 100 Sustainable Destinations.

Silver Quality Coast Award, awarded to Bonaire in 2016.For its efforts, Bonaire was awarded the Silver Quality Coast Award, an excellent result for the island’s initial effort, but clearly giving room for improvement.

Just last month, on World Tourism Day, Bonaire was delighted to announce that it had been named again to the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations.

What is a Blue Economy?

A destination with a Blue Economy recognizes ecosystems as its natural capital and protects and maintains them accordingly. Further, the destination aspires to social and economic stability through the use of clean technology and renewable energy. For a destination such as Bonaire, with much of tourism tied to the island’s marine habitats, having a Blue Economy is imperative. Bonaire wishes to become the first Blue Caribbean Destination, to add to its honors as a Green Destination.

Why should Bonaire strive to have a Blue Economy?

For decades, Bonaire has founded its tourism on the protection of its ecosystems. The establishment of Bonaire’s marine park has been held as the benchmark around the world for protection of coral reefs. Now, nearly all protected marine areas utilize a similar plan to protect their natural marine resources.

Tourism must serve as a stepping stone to the development and well-being of all those living on Bonaire. The island’s tourism must enable them to create a Blue Economy and live in harmony with nature.

Current nature-related projects on Bonaire.

Echo Foundation spearheads reforestation efforts on Bonaire.Bonaire is already active in a number of nature-related projects, including:

  • sustainable agriculture
  • nomination of the Bonaire National Marine Park as a World Heritage area
  • management of free-roaming herbivores, such as goats, pigs, and donkeys
  • reforestation
  • ecological rehabilitation of Lac Bay and the southern area of Bonaire
  • coral restoration
  • erosion control and habitat restoration
  • sustainable goat farming

A concerted effort in Bonaire’s wastewater management began in 2013.

From 2013 to 2015, the island was busy with the installation of a wastewater transport system and wastewater processing facility, which transforms wastewater into water suitable for agricultural irrigation.

Last year, in 2016, the wastewater plant reached a milestone, processing its 1000 batch of wastewater. Plans are in place to expand additional residential areas (Hato and Belnem) into the wastewater treatment program in the next year.

By processing the wastewater, ocean contamination is limited. The inclusion of the island’s ocean-side resorts is critical–Bonaire’s population hovers at around 20,000–still a small number of inhabitants. However, the island hosts approximately 130,000 stay-over visitors each year as well as about 400,000 cruise ship visitors in port for a day during the cruise season. The amount of waste generated by tourism must be managed, as it represents the majority of the waste-related footprint of the island. So although tourism brings benefits, it can also pose threats to a destination’s natural resources.

Nearly 40% of Bonaire’s energy needs are met with clean, renewable energy.

This is a staggeringly high percentage and Bonaire already provides the highest rate of clean energy within The Netherlands (European or Caribbean). This is mostly powered by the Morotin Wind Park, which was established in 2009, along with a solar-powered energy pilot program serving the needs of approximately 70-80 homes, which began in 2015. Plans are in place to increase the number of wind turbines at the Morotin Wind Park over the next five years, further increasing Bonaire’s use of clean, renewable energy.

Bonaire’s master plan for energy supply.

In addition to the expansion of the windmills, the island’s master plan for energy includes the following:

  • Alternative cleaner fossil fuels, including the development of an AlgaePARC
  • New motors designed with a dual-fuel aspect
  • Solar energy will become decentralized and more readily available to local businesses and residential homes
  • Seeking a better energy storage solution

What is an AlgaePARC?

Since photosynthesis performed by microscopic plants was responsible for the formation of earth’s fossil oil reserves millions of years ago, and, currently these reserves are declining, research is being conducted into the potential to use photosynthesis to (re)capture inorganic carbon and convert it into the organic molecules that are the feedstock of all carbon-based food and fuel available today.

Microalgae and cyanobacteria (also called phytoplankton by biologists) have great potential as a photosynthetic catalyst, as they have some important advantages over traditional agricultural crops. For example, the predicted areal productivities of microalgae are much higher and can be obtained without the use of arable land.

Many algal species are salt tolerant and therefore seawater can be used for cultivation, making Bonaire an ideal location for the cultivation of microalgae. Currently, those involved with the new AlgaePARC are researching which types of algae can best be cultivated here on Bonaire.

What is your impression of Bonaire as a Green Destination with a Blue Economy?

Please let us know how you think the island is progressing in its quest for continued sustainable tourism.  You may submit detailed feedback via the comment section below and you may respond in general terms, or cite specific areas of Bonaire, such as the Bonaire National Marine Park, the Washington-Slagbaai National Park, Lac Bay, etc.
We welcome your feedback!

(Source:  Bonaire Insider Reporter)


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Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 


 

 

 

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