No Comments

Las Baulas Marine Park could be reduced

Baby Leatherbacks heading out to sea...
Baby Leatherbacks heading out to sea...

Tamarindo News
By Patricia Duran K.

The area currently occupied by Las Baulas Marine National Park could be reduced by an executive bill encouraged by the government, which is currently under study at the Environment Committee of the Legislative Assembly.

Although the Sala Cuarta orders the State to protect the environment and in spite of the studies in which such reduction is not justified, the government insists on this initiative, which, according to the deputies of the political party Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC), only seeks to benefit large developers.

Playa Langosta and  the area of Cerro El Morro, located north from Las Baulas Park, are the sites that would remain outside the protection zone for real estate development, but this time within the national park area.

According to Congressman Sergio Alfaro, such legal reform proposes the creation of refuge of mixed ownership to allow the construction of urban systems, hotels, tourism development and recreational areas, as well as public and private infrastructure and even ecotourism, by leaving aside the hydro-geological study of the National Ground Water, Irrigation and Drainage Service (SENARA, for its acronym in Spanish), which qualifies the park as of “extreme vulnerability,” meaning that no development of any kind, not even as eco-friendly as it could be, could be developed here.

Alfaro said that SENARA study concluded that that there is an aquifer under that area that could be seriously affected. “The project is awash with private benefits seeking for the reduction of this area to benefit them even more. The turtles, the water, everything else are taking a second place,” he said.
The leatherbacks are an endangered species of turtles that come to Guanacaste to lay their eggs. Over the past 20 years, its population has decreased by 90%; according to projections from the World Conservation Union, if it continues like this, it will completely disappear in about ten years.
Randall Arauz, Executive Director of Sea Turtle Restoration Program, said that if the development of infrastructure at the National Marine Park Las Baulas is permitted, the turtles will be seriously affected because the lights disorient the hatchlings on their way to the sea and discourage the female adults from nesting.

Arauz strongly criticized the executive branch for promoting itself abroad as a protector of the environment, and for doing something completely different locally, and stressed on the fact that we are missing politicians who will to protect the environment.

The Executive Branch of Costa Rica submitted to the Legislative Assembly  the Executive Bill named “Law for the rectification of boundaries of the Las Baulas Marine National Park and the Creation of Las Baulas National Wildlife Refuge of mixed ownership” (file 17.383).

The Political party Acción Ciudadana (PAC) reported that the project is just the newest presentation of the same group of interests that have been already submitted to them in three other projects, which have also been rejected by the Legislative Assembly.

He recalled that those projects, like this new initiative, were seeking to exclude the areas of greatest interest for the regional property and tourist market from Las Baulas Park, especially Cerro El Morro, Cerro Ventanas, and part of the territorial sea of Capitán and Verde Islands, among others.

Two of the resolutions of the Constitutional Court (No. 2008007549 and No. 2008-18529) are still waiting for its application to consolidate the boundaries of the park and make the necessary expropriations.
On the other hand, as of last December, there is SENARA’s statement, compulsory technical criteria describing the state of “extreme vulnerability” of Huacas-Tamarindo aquifer, particularly in Playa Grande.

This project excludes those private areas that the Sala Cuarta has ordered to expropriate. Without any scientific study that allowing it, it authorizes the development of single-family homes, multifamily home, tourist residences, and recreational facilities in what is now the National Park.

Due to this new issue, PAC’s representatives announced they will defend the current boundaries of the Park, the decision of the Constitutional Court and the expropriations necessary to help to the survival of the leatherback turtle.

“PAC shares this concern with many local and environmental organizations such as Pretoma (Sea Turtle Restoration Program) and the Association for the Preservation and Protection of the Natural and Cultural Resources of the Province of Guanacaste, and we demand the government to consolidate the Park,” he added.

The Leatherback case is just an example of what is happening in all the coastal areas of our country. Ratifying the executive bill would set a negative precedent for our environmental policy and the international prestige of Costa Rica. Las Baulas Park is located in the epicenter of the Guanacaste tourist and real estate maelstrom.

A publication of a group of congress people from PAC states, “There is no doubt then that they are playing here not only with the future of the populations of leatherbacks, now in danger of extinction. This confirms that there is a serious mismatch between reality and the declarations of Costa Rican environmental diplomacy, national laws and the reputation of the country in terms of conservation.”

No Comments

Costa Rica, the happiest country in the world!

All smiles living here...simply "Pura Vida"
All smiles living here...simply "Pura Vida"

The Happy Planet Index 2.0 reveals a surprising picture of the relative wealth and progress of nations.

The second global ranking of well-being and environmental impact shows that: Costa Rica comes top of the Happy Planet Index 2.0. Costa Ricans report the highest life satisfaction in the world, have the second-highest average life expectancy of the Americas (second only to Canada) and have an ecological footprint that means that the country only narrowly fails to achieve the goal of ‘one-planet living’: consuming its fair share of the Earth’s natural resources.

Latin America dominates the top of the index. Nine of the ten top-scoring nations on the Index are in Latin America. The highest-ranking G20 country in terms of HPI is Brazil, in 9th place out of 143 nations.

      Analysis of HPI data over time reveals that:

      OECD nations’ HPI scores plummeted between 1960 and the late 1970s. Although there have been some gains since then, HPI scores were still higher in 1961 than in 2005. Life satisfaction and life expectancy combined have increased 15 per cent over the 45-year period, but it has come at an earth-shattering cost – an increase in ecological footprint per head of 72 per cent.

      Of a group of 36 major nations it was possible to track over time in detail, around two-thirds increased their HPI scores marginally between 1990 and 2005, but the three largest countries in the world China, India and the USA (all aggressively pursuing growth-based development models) have all seen their HPI scores drop in that time.

        No Comments

        Who stopped the Rain?

        Guanacaste Tree
        Guanacaste Tree

        The Howler Mag
        By: Tom Peifer

        The truth is that it is not raining much this year in Guanacaste. Depending on your area, perspective or source of data, we may be 80% below last year. Recent national forecasts say we’ll get something substantial in September and October. Maybe corn farmers will have better luck with their late-season planting.

        The truth is, we don’t know if this is just a dry year after two wet years, or the beginning of a new pattern. Climate change models show Guanacaste becoming 30% drier but even that misses the point. They have long predicted that rainfall would come in more intense ‘events’. When that happens, more water ends up running off to the ocean, less goes into the ground. Thirty percent less rain may well translate into fifty percent drier. Nobody knows for sure.

        Over the years in these columns we have explored ways to adapt your home, your farm or garden, to the realities of a changing world. A well-placed bump here and an infiltration zone there and, bingo, you have an area where your plants could swear they were living in the humid tropics. But, as Mark Twain wryly noted, common sense appears to be a very uncommon thing.

        Let that thought hang there while considering that a dry year for Guanacaste may lead to lower levels in Lake Arenal and reduced electricity generation in one of the biggest hydropower installations of the country. Might have been a good idea for someone to ponder that variable before developing a surfeit of energy guzzling, air-conditioned, tourist industry infrastructure. Ditto for the proposed massive diversion of ground water and river flows to keep the lawns and golf courses green.

        An ironic fact is that the current weakness of the whole edifice of the tourism-related economy is due to ‘other’ reasons. Inquiring minds can now follow the paper trail and see how the twin towers of tourism and related construction were erected on the less-than-stable subsoil of the expanding US real estate and financial bubble. Both evidence and testimony would appear to demonstrate that that bubble was blown to resuscitate the moribund US economy after the bubble popped.

        Let’s cut to the chase here. What’s the next bubble? Trillions of dollars have been poured into rescue efforts. Many observers are skeptical that the future will rock steady to the tune of “Let the good times roll.” A recent conference in Russia—with US observers politely refused—is seen as a first step away from the dollar-based international monetary system. The truth is that there is a massive historical shift occurring and we are living through it.

        The expression “living in a bubble” describes someone protected or isolated from reality. In the financial realm–which for many millions now impacts access to things like jobs, food, and shelter in addition to flights to Costa Rica—we can now observe the collective letdown of a return to stark reality. Let’s run with the analogy a bit.

        I recently saw an article with a series of graphs that depict man’s increasing impact on nature. Statistics freaks call the form of the exponential rise of the curve from flat to vertical a “hockey stick.” Pick your favorite area of concern. It was there. Over-fishing of the oceans, depletion of forests, use of groundwater, species extinction, fertilizer consumption, use of fossil fuels, McDonald’s restaurants, air travel, CO2 in the atmosphere, extraction of minerals from the earth’s crust. Hockey sticks galore.

        The truth is that the human race has benefited from a series of bubbles conveniently blown by the forces of nature. You can thank your lucky stars that we just happen to enjoy life in an atmosphere that conveniently affords protection from the inhospitable void of space and a nice convenient breathable gas called oxygen that conveniently comes out of plants that conveniently turn solar energy into stuff we can use. All in all, it has been a quite comfy place for the human race to hang its hat for a while—considering the alternatives. But, it would appear that humanity has been busily bursting the bubbles with the hockey stick curve of exponential economic growth and the collateral damage of resource consumption and its consequences.

        Now they may not be hockey fans, but mainstream economists want to get back to exponential growth ASAP. Most are wont to entrust our fate to the workings of the invisible guiding hand that is supposedly able to replace anything with something else as long as the price is right.  Like they found the secret force which passes from the hand of God on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel and puts the spark of life into the lifeless clay of a recently moulded Adam. Inquiring minds can mull over the likelihood of market forces solving the shortage of rainfall in time for this year’s corn crop in Guanacaste, or next year’s electrical outages if Lake Arenal doesn’t fill up.

        The truth is that even the White House recently released a report saying that localities need to prepare for the inevitable effects of climate change based on what we now know. We’re not talking more research. We’re talking adaptation—concrete action steps around the certainty, as we now know it. No more head in the clouds, head in the sand or pie in the sky. The stuff is comin’ down so people get ready. Like the Guanacaste proverb: hombre prevenido vale por dos (a well-prepared man is worth double…)

        There are plenty of ‘baby steps’ you can take to prepare your home, garden or farm for a drier Guanacaste.

        As a country, Costa Rica is several giant steps ahead of the pack in terms of coping with the vicissitudes of a future largely defined by climate change and both energy and water issues. Unfortunately the powers that be don’t realize what a comparative advantage they enjoy, or how to make best use of it.

        As observed above, “The truth is tough,” but it may not resonate well with those whose power depends on adherence to the norms of yore. One of my favorite songs admonishes us to “tell the children the truth.” They may in fact be more receptive. After all, the ‘sins of their fathers’ are going to be visited unfairly on their heads, leaving them with far fewer bubbles to enjoy.

        It bears remembering that most organisms survived by the luck of the genetic draw in the sudden-death casino of natural selection. If your genes moved in the right direction, you evolved fast enough to adapt, to keep up with the changin’ times. Homo sapiens, at least in theory, is a breed apart. We have the ability to see which way the wind is blowing and set the sails accordingly.

        You can do your own kids a big favor. Tell them the truth and provide them with the knowledge and the tools to make a difference. Take the time—and effort–to blow some life back into the real bubbles, the natural ones that sustain us all and give us the gift of Pura Vida.

        And yes, enjoy the fiesta time wonders that float, drift and rise like glittering spherical rainbows and make the children run, clapping their hands into the future with exuberance and happines.

        No Comments

        Tamarindo’s Future Depends on You

        A great community looking to become better
        A great community working to become better

        Tamarindo News
        by Lady Ann Umana Segura & Gabriela valenzuela

        The Asociación Pro Mejoras de Playa Tamarindo (APMT) continues working on its programs to promote the betterment of the community for both residents and visitors. During 2008, the APMT went through a phase of cost reduction that affected its most visible part. The office was closed, and the position of Executive Director had to be eliminated. However, this does not mean that their programs were cancelled. APMT still kept cleaning the beaches, and financing the police and lifeguards programs up to this day.

        For several months, they steadily worked on these programs, as well as on constituting the Board for the next term. In January 2009, the Assembly was convened to appoint a new Board, which had to face a quite poor picture. On one side there was the global crisis; and on the other side, developers were concerned about the pronouncing of the Sala Cuarta, in which every construction within the first 500 meters from the beach was halted in order to protect the leatherback turtles.

        “The scenario became even more complicated. There are many things against it,” said Federico Amador, the Board’s President, referring to actions that must be taken to continue supporting and maintaining the programs in Tamarindo. “We believe we are experiencing a critical moment, in which we must look for joint solutions among developers, residents, businesses and investors.”

        The crisis led to a significant decrease on the contributions of 150 memberships paid last year to less than 20 in the current period.

        Only the annual basic cost of the office is of $18,000.00, to that let’s add $36,000.00 for the management of the programs.

        Three urgent needs are in danger of disappearing: the cleaning program for Tamarindo to have a decent appearance for residents and visitors; the lifeguard program that ensures the safety of tourists in the sea, and the permanence of the Police, whose work is of vital importance in the area.

        The government has not supported the programs and the way to collect this money through the state institutions is never-ending. However, the association has continued with the requests of support to the ministries and the Municipality, while keeping calling for donations for them not to depend on the contributions of residents.

        In addition, the “plan regulador” rests at the National Institute of Housing and Urbanism (INVU, in Spanish). The plan will not be processed until settling the $7000-debt owed to consultants who participated with APMT and the municipality to carry out this project.

        “About a year ago, we stopped being the voice of Tamarindo before the governmental institutions, public and private organizations, students, visitors, residents and investors. This implies a significant loss of the communication we regularly had with them to find the resources for our community. However, the APMT has maintained regular contact with key institutions in order not to lose the progress made in the projects.”

        Then we had to ask the question: Why are developers, business owners and many residents refusing to collaborate with the Association? Federico answered, “There is a conflict of interests. The developers claim that the Association only looks after the interests of residents and that they do not believe that they are receiving the benefits of our work. However, for many years, residents have contributed enormously to maintain all programs that benefit directly or indirectly to all the entrepreneurs, investors and developers in the area. The concern is to keep the programs and help them not to disappear, not if the Association took part or not. We must find common ground for everyone to get involved in the improvements of our people.”

        Bruce McKillican gave its own version. His position is interesting because he is both resident and developer. “Only a small percentage of people pays; others do not do it because they disagree with the programs. I am sorry that APMT does not have a good relation with the Municipality. I personally think that there is a serious disconnection between the needs of Tamarindo and the Municipality’s. We, the residents of Tamarindo, are daily paying basic services from our own wallets. The garbage collection, the lifeguard program, the presence of Police officers are all paid from voluntary donations allocated to a tourist destination. The money from tourism generates taxes. But such monies will never come back to Tamarindo. That is out of balance. That is Pro Mejoras struggle”.

        Midge Menking, acquainted with the work of the Association, said: “People do not think what would happen if the APMT stops working, if the police leaves town, if there is no one to clean the area, if there were no lifeguards. Many believe that large investors or local government should pay for such services. I have been living here for 30 years, and I do remember when there was garbage everywhere and thieves were not caught. We are about to lose everything that has been achieved. However, I think we have a communication problem. If people knew that there is a new board and would give them a chance to present their proposals, when the crisis passes, I hope they will return to the Association to help. It is necessary to complete all the projects that still require completion. We must give them the opportunity to work and get results.”

        Business owners, residents and major investors must be aware that the police, lifeguards and cleanup of Tamarindo are essential to their interests, and ask themselves if they are making their own efforts to preserve them.

        Federico said, “There have been some attempts to form organized groups outside the Association aiming at addressing such needs. However, they were stopped due to the prevalence of the different economic interests represented. They could not work together because everyone wanted to ensure that their interests were taking priority.”

        At this time, there is the possibility of forming strategic alliances with some groups that could develop the programs. “For example,” said Amador, “we asked the Surfrider Foundation to jointly help us support the beach cleaning service, an important part of the Blue Flag program. Pro Tamarindo Group has been actively involved in building the new police station, as well as maintaining the place they occupy today. The community, including residents, developers, investors and entrepreneurs, should understand that if they do not participate, they are damaging Tamarindo, both the community and our visitors, because we are destroying our tourist destination.”

        Finally, APMT has a new website ( to keep the communication with the community. Here you can find all relevant documents to each program, as well as information that has been collected over the years. Currently, the site is only in English but in a few weeks the Spanish version will be published. For more information, please email Account numbers for donations or memberships are: # 200-02-145-000762-7 at Banco Nacional and # 907345920 at BAC San José.

        No Comments

        Signs of recovery in Costa Rica?

        Costa Rica's Central Bank is reporting positive signs of an economic rebound.
        Costa Rica's Central Bank is reporting positive signs of an economic rebound.

        By Chrissie Long
        Tico Times Staff

        Costa Rica may be riding above the deep economic flood that’s washed over other developing countries.

        Although the World Bank issued a report warning of the lasting effect the crisis will have on poorer countries, Standard & Poor’s has maintained the country’s credit ratings, saying Costa Rica’s financial outlook “remains stable.”

        “Recent years of good (gross domestic product) GDP growth and prudent fiscal policy helped reduce the public sector debt burden to less than 40 percent of GDP in 2008, down from more than 50 percent in 2006,” according to the report.

        Costa Rica’s Central Bank also is reporting positive signs of an economic rebound, including a moderation in the rate of economic contraction and an increase in retail sales for the first time in three months, according to a recent report by the consulting firm Aldesa. In addition, major foreign investors such as Boston Scientific and Firestone recently have undertaken actions to expand their operations in Costa Rica.

        Yet, the picture isn’t as hopeful on the world stage. The World Bank issued a warning on Thursday of the lasting impact the crisis could have on developing countries.

        The Washington D.C.-based organization is preparing to dole out a record amount of money in loans this year and also is monitoring the world GDP, which it expects will shrink by 3 percent (a significant increase from the 1.75 percent anticipated earlier).

        “Although growth is expected to revive during the course of 2010, the pace of the recovery is uncertain and the poor in many developing countries will continue to be buffeted by the aftershocks,” said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick.

        He continued, “Waves of economic pain continue to hurt the developing world’s poor, who have less cushion to protect themselves. There is much more we need to do in the coming months to mobilize resources to ensure that the poor do not pay for a crisis that is not of their making.”

        No Comments

        The Road Begins?

        Work has commenced on the road to Langosta
        Work has commenced on the road to Langosta

        ABC Real Estate
        By: Alex Bejarano

        Any project from small to large can take quite a while living in Costa Rica. It’s the downside to living the laid back easy “pura vida” lifestyle. Recently however, the Government under the Arias Administration has been able to somehow stimulate the growth of infrastructure in the country. Things seem to be moving more smoothly and delivery dates of Government funded projects seem to be more accurate with their completion.

        In San Jose there has been expansions of major roads systems in some of the most congested parts of the city. Toll booths have been constructed with “E-Z Pass” technology; a capability where an electronic toll collection system uses a small radio transponder mounted in or on a customer’s vehicle to deduct toll fares from a pre-paid account as the vehicle passes through the toll barrier. This reduces manpower at toll booths and increases traffic flow and fuel efficiency by reducing the need for complete stops to pay tolls at these locations.

        While technologies like these are far from reaching our little beach town, (most likely & hopefully never) we are seeing much advancement in the paving of our roads. The main road of Tamarindo was completed last year and till this day we can still appreciate the great job that was done.

        For six years now, our beach community has been highly anticipating the paving of the main road to Langosta, which is finally underway! At least as of June 1st, 2009 it appears to be. In front of our office we noticed the rigorous work involved in filling in the new Tamarindo Lake which formed with the past couple of downpours. Pacific Park was soon to be renamed Lakeside Park. Fortunately this issue has been solved and by the looks of it, it is the first stage of the project of paving the road all the way to Langosta.

        We have received from a reliable source the time period in which this strip of road shall be completed. According to the project manager who works directly with The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT), the road will be finished in 1month…yes 1 month. I’m sure many of you also found this amusing, yet the source of the information should be taken a little serious considering his position. But we all know that even if the President of Costa Rica announced the road would be finished in 1 month we STILL wouldn’t believe it until we kneeled down and felt the asphalt with our own hands. There’s always hope though when we see something is being done.