Comment by Horst. G. Steinmeyer
The Government´s proposal for ecological land use
provokes heavy criticism from 13 environmentalist groups in Bahía de Banderas, Compostela and San Blas.
The ALIANZA de la Costa Verde coordinated analysis of the document and elaboration of more than 60 recommendations.
Territorial Ecological Planning (TEP) is an internationally accepted instrument of environmental policy for land use planning, to achieve protection and sustainable use of natural resources. This method assesses available resources and deterioration trends of geographic areas and defines their aptitude for sustainable use.
Well designed and well managed, TEP is a very useful process to integrate diverse interests of stakeholders, such as developers, farmers, industry, commerce, public authorities and environmentalists.
Not having a TEP system is considered a competitive disadvantage when trying to attract investment. Ecological planning is therefore high on the Governor´s priority list ever since he took office in 2005.
Current legal framework in Mexico gives jurisdiction for ecological planning to the individual states. However, there is a rigid procedure that has to be followed, drafted by the federal agency SEMARNAT (Ministry for Environmental Protection).
In January of 2009, the Secretary for Environmental Protection of Nayarit (SEMANAY) presented its proposal of a TEP for the three southern costal municipalities, Bahía de Banderas, Compostela and San Blas.
The TEP document is plagued by methodological deficiencies, in many cases uses obsolete data and violates several Mexican laws and international treaties that México has subscribed. Researchers from CUC/UdeG (University of Guadalajara), consulted by the ALIANZA de la Costa Verde, confirm the poor quality of the study and absence of reliable data, generated through field work.
The five year of its creation and the legally required public consultation process for the TEP lacked transparency. Neither SEMARNAT, who financed the project, nor SEMANAY seem to have exercised a minimum of quality control of the work done by consultants from UAN (Universidad Autónoma de Nayarit in Tepic).
During February and March of this year, 13 environmentally oriented NGO´s in the region, coordinated by the ALIANZA de la Costa Verde, thoroughly analysed the 222 page proposal. At the end of March, they filed a 30 page letter with more than 60 observations and recommendations. The summary of their concern is, that contrary to its supposed purpose, the flawed TEP gives ´un cheque en blanco´ to municipal authorities to approve development projects in areas like the Sierra de Vallejo, the rain forest in the center of our state, a major water shed for the region.
The TEP would also allow municipal zoning for building in areas that require ecological protection (mangroves and river beds) and ignores the potential for natural disasters.
ALIANZA maintains that instead of regulating orderly growth, the proposed planning instrument actually leads to further deteroriation of the costal area of Nayarit. The way the TEP is designed, it will contribute to reduced quality of life of local residents and further devaluate property values, particularly of beach lots.
An example of this is the massive invasion of Litibú Beach over Easter holidays by hundreds of vacationers from far beyond the local area, many of them camping on the beach for more than one week. Litibú Community Association choose to mitigate the environmental impact of this human invasion, rented porta potties and handed out plastic bags for garbage collection to campers. Actually, what is happening is the direct consequence of increased ´privatization of beaches´ for tourist projects and Fonatur - and other developers in the region - blocking access roads to public beaches: Collateral damage of a governmental policy under the trademark “RIVIERA NAYARIT”. This in turn will probably trigger more fencing off of beaches. Perfect setting for a catch 22.
Interesting to note that in Nayarit the tens of thousands private owners of first and second homes don´t have anybody lobbying for their interests. Developers and big investors seem ´to write´ government policy.
PD. The very same day, the letter was delivered to the offices of SEMANAY in Tepic, ALIANZA de la Costa Verde received an e-mail from the Secretary of SEMANAY, Luis Carlos Tapia, promising close cooperation. “Los sueños nutren la esperanza”.