MEXICO CITY – Greenpeace criticized the Mexican government’s decision to allow a Spanish real-estate developer build a giant tourist complex near the only coral reef in the Gulf of California.
The environmental watchdog, which last August joined with several non-governmental organizations in opposing the Cabo Cortes project, said Thursday that Mexico’s Environment Secretariat “is not fulfilling its commitment to protect the environment” by paving the way for the destruction of the Cabo Pulmo reef.
The Environment Secretariat, or Semarnat, said Tuesday it will issue a permit for the construction of that development – a massive tourist complex covering almost 4,000 hectares (9,885 acres) and contiguous with the Capo Pulmo National Marine Park – to Spain’s Hansa Urbana, although with a series of restrictions.
Greenpeace said it is regrettable that the Mexican government is arguing that the environmental criteria for that region are not “mandatory” but merely meant to offer “persuasive guidance.”
“Semarnat’s interpretation is erroneous. The environmental criteria are mandatory,” Alejandro Olivera, coordinator of Greenpeace Mexico’s Oceans and Coasts campaign, said.
Authorities have approved the leveling of 1,248 hectares (3,080 acres) for the construction of two 18-hole golf courses, roads, 17 kilometers (10 miles) of water pipes, a marina with 490 moorings and 27,111 guestrooms, roughly equivalent to the total number in the Caribbean resort of Cancun, the country’s leading tourist destination.
The Cabo Pulmo reef is about 20,000 years old, making it one of the oldest in the American Pacific.
It is common to see four species of turtles, dolphins, seals, and whale, tiger and bull sharks in its waters, which are also a migratory pathway for humpback and blue whales.
In 1995, Cabo Pulmo was declared a natural protected area and today it is a national park spanning 7,111 hectares, 99 percent of which is marine habitat.
“For Semarnat to approve the construction of a new city in a semi-desert region is ecocide for the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park and we’re not going to allow it,” Patricia Arendar, Greenpeace Mexico’s executive director, said.
Hansa Urbana was initially authorized by Semarnat to begin construction of Cabo Cortes, located in the Los Cabos area of Baja California Sur state, in 2008.
Last August, however, Semarnat announced the temporary suspension of that permit and requested that Hansa submit more information to ensure no disruption to the ecoystem of that region.
Greenpeace said at that time that Mexico’s National Commission for Protected Areas had objected to the environmental-impact report submitted by Hansa, which faces probes in Spain over alleged irregularities in the permit process for its Novo Carthago project.
“Greenpeace finds it unacceptable that Spanish real-estate and tourist companies, key players in the unsustainable development that has occurred in Spain in recent years ... intend to replicate the disaster they’ve caused in other countries,” the group said last August. EFE