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.”