Baja Mega-Resorts under International Scrutiny

Mexican and international environmental organizations are praising the decision of the Montreal-based Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) to move forward in an investigation of large tourist developments on the Gulf of California.

In response to a citizen petition filed by 11 Mexican and international green groups, the CEC has requested that the Pena Nieto administration respond to complaints that Mexican and international environmental laws were not followed in the approval of four tourist developments by the Secretariat for the Environment and Natural Resources.

The mega-resorts in question include Entre Mares, Paraiso del Mar, Playa Espiritu and Cabo Cortes, the latter of which was cancelled during the administration of former President Felipe Calderon.

According to the CEC, the petitioners assert that the developments would significantly impact the Bay of La Paz, the El Mogote nesting area, the Cabo Pulmo coral reef, and the Marismas Nacionales wetland.

“(Petitioners) further contend that Mexico is failing to effectively enforce the Ramsar Convention and the provisions of Mexican environmental law applicable to environmental impact assessment, the protection of wetlands, and the conservation of endangered species,” the CEC said.

Planned for a mangrove zone around the port of La Paz, the state capital of Baja California Sur, the Entre Mares development was envisioned as a residential and commercial complex the equivalent of thousands of hotel rooms, featuring an 18-hole golf course and a marina with a capacity to dock 440 boats.  In November, Entre Mares suffered a legal blow when a Mexican federal court reaffirmed another court’s 2012 decision which annulled the environmental authorization for the project.

Sandra Moguel, legal adviser to the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), called the CEC’S action an important advance in applying international and national law in that it recognized Mexico’s duty to adhere to a treaty the country has ratified:  the 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which is a unique international accord specifically designed to protect a vital ecosystem.

The Switzerland-based office in charge of overseeing the Ramsar Convention defines the mission of the treaty as “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.

Currently, Mexico has 139 sites and 8,833,094 hectares of wetlands listed under the Ramsar Convention.

Besides the AIDA, other organizations signing on to the CEC citizen petition include Greenpeace Mexico, Wild Coast, Los Cabos Coastkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council, among others.  The Mexican government has until early January to comply with the CEC’S request for a formal response to the allegations raised in the citizen petition.

The CEC is the trinational environmental monitoring agency established under the side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

For more information on the Ramsar Convention, readers can check:

Additional sources: La Jornada, November 26, 2013. Article by Angelica Enciso L., November 13, 2013.  Article by Ivan Gaxiola

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