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18 August 2019

AIDA presented an amicus brief demonstrating the importance of the protected area, as well as Mexico’s international environmental and human rights obligations to preserve it in the face of a 21,000-room hotel project that would imply significant damage to the site.

Cancun, Mexico. The Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) presented a legal brief (Amicus Curiae) before the Seventh District Court of the State of Quintana Roo to defend the Yum Balam Flora and Fauna Protection Area, located in the north of the state.

In 2018, when the site's Management Program was published, private and communal landowners filed several lawsuits against the program and the decree that created the protected area, arguing that it affected their rights to participation, property, and legality.

Prior to the publication of the Management Program, the Advisory Council of the protected area received a report from a consultant who recommended the construction within Yum Balam of a mega tourism project that includes 21,000 hotel rooms, deeming it economically viable.

"That viability is in doubt because each hotel room would generate changes in land use, population growth, loss of flora and fauna, and other irreversible damages to the ecological characteristics of the place," said Camilo Thompson, AIDA attorney. "What is at stake is Yum Balam’s contribution to the enjoyment of a healthy environment for present and future generations."

The decree creating the protected area, which dates back to 1994, puts the public interest and regulation of natural environments that benefit the entire country above private interests. The Management Program is aimed at regulating the conservation and sustainable use of Yum Balam. The site is considered a Priority Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.

"According to a study, Yum Balam's mangroves and sea grasses prevent 38.5 million tons of carbon dioxide from escaping, equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 9.4 million Mexican people," said Pilar Diez, Regional Director of the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA-Southeast).

In its 152 thousand hectares, the site also has reefs and coastal dunes. It is home to more than 90 percent of the endemic birds of the Yucatan Peninsula, sea turtles with special protection status, whale sharks, dolphins, and endangered terrestrial species like the jaguar. In fact, in the Maya language, Yum Balam means Señor Jaguar.

"Our brief seeks to document the national and international importance of Yum Balam in the context of the climate crisis," Thompson added. "Betting on the development of tourism megaprojects is incompatible with the urgent task of confronting this crisis and achieving climate justice.”

Both the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Platform for Science and Policy on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have been very firm about the current situation of ecosystem loss and the urgent actions that all countries must take in the face of the climate crisis.

"We’ve documented the international legal framework under which the Mexican State is obliged to guarantee fundamental human rights, such as the right to a healthy environment," Thompson explained. "Mexico has the obligation to conserve its biodiversity, including coastal wetlands, forests, jungles and other ecosystems that regulate the climate and contribute to fishing and tourism."

The Court's decision must reflect these obligations and uphold Yum Balam's protection.

press contact:

Victor Quintanilla (Mexico), AIDA, [email protected], +521 5570522107


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