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Mexico’s government is held internationally accountable for authorizing tourism infrastructure in the Gulf of California
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) called on Mexican authorities to respond by January 8, 2014 to a complaint of breaching environmental legislation in the permits for four mega resorts.
Mexico City, Mexico. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) requested an explanation from the Mexican government for authorizing tourism projects in the Gulf of California. The international organization, established under the North American Free Trade Agreement, made the determination after reviewing a citizen petition submitted by Mexican and U.S. organizations[i]denouncing the systematic violation of Mexican environmental law in permits for the construction of four mega resorts that put at risk fragile coral reefs, mangroves and wetlands.
The Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) and Earthjustice filed the petition[ii] with the CEC in April on behalf of 11 Mexican and international organizations. In the petition, the four resort projects are presented as an example of how Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) endorsed massive tourism infrastructure in the Gulf of California in violation of norms for environmental impact assessment, the protection of endangered species and the conservation of coastal ecosystems.
The CEC Secretariat determined that the Mexican government has until January 8, 2014 to provide a response on why it issued the permits, specifically in relation to these aspects: use of the best available information, assessing the cumulative impacts and destruction of ecosystems, the lack of precautionary and preventive measures, and the omission of the power to suspend works.
The CEC also requested information on the implementation of the resolutions and recommendations of the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty for the protection of wetlands of international importance like those in the Gulf of California. “It is a breakthrough in national and international law because it recognizes these provisions as part of the implementation of the obligations in the international treaties ratified by Mexico,” said Sandra Moguel, an AIDA legal adviser.
The Secretariat acknowledged, in particular, the resolutions adopted by the contracting parties to the Ramsar Convention, which establish standards for the environmental impact assessment and protection of wetlands. The Secretariat also acknowledged the recommendations of the Ramsar Missions that visited the Marismas Nacionales and Cabo Pulmo, concluding that large-scale tourism developments were not appropriate because of the vulnerability of these ecosystems[iii]. It asked Mexico to explain its failure to perform an environmental impact assessment in accordance with these provisions.
“The CEC called for accountability from the Mexican government with respect to the abuse of discretion in considering technical reviews, as is the case with the Playa Espíritu project that lacked environmental viability according to the CONANP (National Commission on Protected Areas),” said Eduardo Nájera, director of COSTASALVAjE, one of the petitioning organizations.
“It is urgent that the new administration of SEMARNAT doesn’t not make the same mistakes as their predecessors, and that it carry out a transparent and non-arbitrary environmental impact assessment, especially in the case of projects that could put in danger wetlands of priority international importance such as Marismas Nacionales, Cabo Pulmo and the Bahía de la Paz,” said Carlos Eduardo Simental, director of the Ecological Network for the Development of Esquinapa (REDES), another petitioner.Finally, Carolina Herrera, a Latin America specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said that she expects that once it receives Mexico’s response, “the CEC will elaborate a detailed investigation of what happened in order to press Mexico to not relax its own environmental protection measures in favor of unsustainable coastal development.”
[i] Ecological Network for the Development of Esquinapa (REDES), Friends for the Conservation of Cabo Pulmo (ACCP), Mexican Center for Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), COSTASALVAjE, SUMAR, Niparajá Natural History Society, Los Cabos Coastkeeper, Alliance for the Sustainability of the Northwestern Coast (ALCOSTA), Greenpeace Mexico and AIDA.
[ii] For more information about the citizen submission mechanism, please see this link.
[iii] These missions are a technical assistance facility of Ramsar whose primary purpose is to assist parties that have wetlands meriting priority attention due to changing ecological characteristics.