Gentrification threat to Bonaire island wildlife

This video says about itself:

Wildlife in Bonaire. HD movie with iguana (drinking and falling from tree), flamingo, pelican, parrot, caracara: October 2011.

Translated from Joop Bouma, in Dutch daily Trouw, 3 January 2020:

On a plantation on Bonaire, the cadushis make way for expensive villas

Conservationists on Bonaire are concerned about a plan for 1500 houses on a former plantation. It is a fragile tropical forest area. The project developer does not understand the fuss.

“Oh dear, look, that’s how it goes”, Johan de Blerk, tree lover on Bonaire, is visibly shocked when he suddenly sees a huge tree cactus lying on the cliff high above the Caribbean Sea. Just cut down. A cadushi of about 4 meters high with a thick trunk. At least a hundred years old, he estimates. A perfectly healthy specimen, he points to young shoots on the felled cactus. The sawdust from the chainsaw is still fresh. “I am going to make a declaration”, he says reluctantly. “This is not allowed. This tree is on the red list. This is exactly how things are done here so often.”

We are on the edge of the Bolivia area, on the east coast of Bonaire, between the old village Rincon and the capital Kralendijk. Bolivia is a former goat plantation and aloe was grown here a long time ago. The 2850 hectare area – 10 percent of the entire island – is covered with dry tropical forest. The species richness has been seriously compromised by decades of grazing goats, donkeys and pigs. Young growth does not get a chance, as in the whole of nature in Bonaire. Dry tropical forest is one of the important Caribbean habitats, but also one with a “very unfavorable future”, according to a recent report by Wageningen scientists commissioned by the Ministries of Agriculture and Economic Affairs in The Hague.

On the very edge of Bolivia, where we are now, a narrow strip of land has recently been sold for housing. It is a beautiful place with a majestic view over the former plantation, with the endless, shimmering Caribbean Sea behind it. Who doesn’t want to live there?

De Blerk, who is committed to preserving and restoring nature on the island, knows better than anyone that landowners often cut down a lot. Often deliberately in violation of the rules, sometimes simply because of ignorance. That is why he visited the buyers of the four lots in Bolivia. Also the piece of land on which we stand. To explain that so many trees have already disappeared from the free nature of Bonaire and that what is still there must be cherished. De Blerk believes that this concern is also due to the enormous cacti, even though many of them grow on the island.

For trees with a trunk diameter of more than 20 centimeters, a felling permit must be applied for on Bonaire. That should have been clear for this sawn-down cactus. According to De Blerk, permission would not have been granted for a tree that could be a century old. Why did this huge cactus on the edge of the cliff have to be felled? Was it because the tree obstructed the clear view of the Caribbean Sea? Further down the cliff are still some large cadushis. “When it comes to the view, I am afraid that they will also go.”

Stories about an anonymous Dutch project developer

But on balance, the few building plots on the outskirts of Bolivia are not his biggest concern. De Blerk is afraid that the special character and vegetation of the former plantation will disappear if a much larger and more extensive building plan for the area continues. Because since a while on Bonaire stories have been circulating about an anonymous Dutch project developer who wants to build 1500 houses or more on Bolivia. Expensive houses along the cliff – because there, with that view, everyone wants to live – and cheaper houses elsewhere in the area.

According to a website with roaring texts, the investor wants to restore Bolivia’s nature and cultural history, construct a cycle route and roads. Between 600 and 900 hectares of the area would be developed. The site, set up by Bonaire Investments NV, contains phrases about ‘an area with enormous opportunities’ … ‘extra attention to nature and the preservation of landscape values’ … ‘where there is room for nature, education and heritage’. The conservationists on Bonaire also think these are good words, but you can claim everything on a website, who actually says this?

Questions that are asked via the email address on the website will not receive a response even after repeated attempts. Only after some searching does a name appear, that of Frans Vinju, former banker and asset adviser in Breda. Yes, he mediated between the current owners and the interested Dutch buyer, he says by telephone at the end of November. The deal is then just not completely complete, so the project developer wants to stay under the radar for a while.

Bonaire map

Bolivia has been designated as an “open landscape” in the Bonaire zoning plan

One of the owners of Bolivia is Richard Hart, former governor of Bonaire. From 1998 to 2003, he was the highest political authority on the island. He reports by e-mail that he inherited Bolivia from his father. The land was already sold in the mid-sixties of the last century to American investors who transferred their assets to Bonaire Properties NV, of which Hart is co-director as a minority shareholder. …

“We are aware”, says WNF spokesperson Dylan de Gruijl in a response. “This is an important nature reserve and large-scale development violates nature values ​​and the surrounding coral reefs. We believe that this is not desirable here, without taking into account the conservation of the natural values. ”The WNF is in close contact with partners on Bonaire, he adds; possibly joint action will be taken as soon as the building permits are applied for. …

But then, last Saturday, an article appears in Amigoe, newspaper on Bonaire. “Controversial sale of Bolivia plantation off”, the headline reads. The newspaper writes, after contacting Hart, that the sale of the land to the project developer is canceled. According to the newspaper, Hart does not want to say more. Further information will follow in mid-January, he says in Amigoe.

A trick to get ownership of the land

After questions by Trouw, Hart refers to Meine Breemhaar, entrepreneur from Almere. He is the mysterious investor in Bolivia. Breemhaar is a multi-millionaire and the owner of nearly 40 companies in Overijssel, Gelderland and Flevoland. He is in the Quote 500, the list of richest Dutch people.

The construction plan on Bonaire is not off, it appears. Breemhaar has done a trick to get ownership of the land. When it turned out that [plan opponent] Nijland and his neighbors wanted to make use of their first right to buy Bolivia, not the entire site, but the adjacent plots, the investor decided to buy Bonaire Properties NV as a whole. Bremhaar is now the owner of Bolivia and of a few smaller, former plantations on Bonaire.

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