July 30, 2011
Dear Mr. Andrade Colmenares,
According to the newspapers on Curacao, you are on Curacao, as a representative of UNEP. From this position, you spoke with the government of Curacao with regards to the environment of Curacao. I realize that the priority areas of UNEP, in the Caribbean, deal with aspects such as biodiversity and hazardous substances. It is for these aspects that I need to inform you, on behalf of SMOC, about the biggest problem of the Dutch Kingdom with regards to the environment and human rights: the oil refinery (the Isla) on Curacao. Hopefully you appreciate this e-mail, because what is the status of (European environmental regulations and) international human rights on Curacao? For your information, we have informed the UN Human Rights Council. Why?
To the point. In the Dutch Kingdom we have got a big problem with the Isla -a former SHELL refinery. The Isla is an oil refinery located on Curacao, a tropical island, which is part of the Dutch Kingdom. The Isla emits huge amounts of environmental hazardous substances. This refinery emits tons of SO2, H2S, particulate matter, heavy metals and aromatic compounds (which have been approved by several judges). Consequently, it causes premature death to at least 18 people every year, and thus, human rights are violated.1 Next to these 18 people, thousands of people do have health problems due to the operations of the Isla. Which actions have been taken by the Curacao government to stop these illegal operations? Nothing serious (which have been approved by several judges). Unfortunately, Prime Minister Rutte of the Dutch government is familiar with this environmental disaster, but does not force the Curacao government and the Isla refinery to operate environmentally friendly. According to the Dutch Kingdom Charter, he should do by following Article 43 (see (in Dutch) http://www.stichtingsmoc.nl/2011/05/koninkrijksinstituut-smoc-snapt-rutte-wel/). Since approximately the 1980s, it is most likely, that the illegal operations of the Isla have been taking place. Or say, about thirty years.
In addition, Curacao belongs to the ‘top 10’ countries with regards to CO2 emissions per capita. How is this possible? The Isla. Of course, all countries should strive to become a sustainable society. Curacao, for example, could be this in many ways by exploring ecotourism and by showing people the beautifulness of the coral reefs. However, with the Isla, the marine environment is polluted with toxic compounds, including heave metals (see (in Dutch) http://www.stichtingsmoc.nl/2011/01/onderzoek-telt-tno-2007/).
Perhaps you appreciate the following articles that explains the public health disaster on Curacao (in English):
Hopefully, I give you, in this short summary, some explanations with regards to the environment. What remains, for SMOC and the Curacao population, are some questions. Can you sue the Isla and the Curacao government for environmental damage due to the illegal operations of the Isla? Are you willing to discuss this human rights disaster within UNEP and with Prime Minister Rutte of the Dutch Kingdom?
I am looking forward to your answer. For your convenience, SMOC is willing to discuss this environmental disaster personally.
Arjan Linthorst (on behalf of SMOC)
Board Member and Chemical Advisor (The Foundation for a Clean Environment On Curacao (SMOC))
1. Please see http://www.stichtingsmoc.nl/uploads/Ecorys-NEI-2005.pdf.