Mexican regulators find that proposed Cabo Cortés project fails to meet environmental conditions - now we need them to do the right thing and cancel it


The verdict on the Cabo Cortés mega tourism project in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula is in: the Mexican Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) found the project proponent failed to meet key conditions and timeframes imposed on its environmental permits. The environmental community and concerned citizens have long pointed out that Cabo Cortés, a Cancun-style tourism and real-estate development proposed on land neighboring the Cabo Pulmo National Park, poses a serious threat to the park and its fragile coral reef system. Now, official documentation obtained by local environmental groups in Mexico shows that in April 2012 Semarnat notified the project proponent that it failed to comply with 9 out of 20 environmental requirements and that its requests for additional time to work on 5 of them were denied. All this indicates that the controversial environmental authorizations the project had already received should be revoked and Cabo Cortés should be definitively cancelled. Semarnat must now do the right thing and cancel this risky project once and for all. Anything short of that is a dereliction of its duty to protect the Cabo Pulmo National Park and its vulnerable coral reef. Join us in asking President Calderon to put an end to this ill-conceived project!

The Cabo Cortés project, proposed by the local subsidiary of the Spanish developer Hansa Urbana is slated for 3,800 hectares adjacent to and just north of Cabo Pulmo National Park, one of the world’s most important marine reserves. Back in March 2011 Semarnat granted environmental authorizations for key elements of the Cabo Cortés project despite a woefully inadequate environmental impact assessment (EIA). Among other deficiencies the assessment relied on incomplete and outdated information about marine currents that could potentially carry sedimentation and other pollutants right into the park and its fragile coral reef. The project’s EIA was so very poor that in its approval notice last year, Semarnat set certain conditions on the permits it granted. The agency has consistently pointed to these conditions as proof that there’s adequate environmental oversight of the controversial Cabo Cortés project.

Now we have learned that these conditions have not been met, highlighting what we’ve already know – Cabo Córtes is an imprudent and environmentally risky project on many levels.  Local groups Greenpeace-Mexico and CEMDA point out that under Mexican administrative law, certain acts – such as environmental authorizations – expire if they are subject to conditions or specific time periods and they fail to meet these. The new information our local partners have acquired shows that the Cabo Cortés project proponent has failed to meet both the substance and deadlines of key conditions. The Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Juan Rafael Elvira,  recently said the Cabo Cortés project was not viable unless the company demonstrated that the local natural resources would not be affected. The documentation now available should leave no doubt that the company has failed to meet minimum requirements to ensure these resources are protected.  Here’s a summary of what Semarnat's General Directorate of Environmental Protection communicated to the project proponent with regard to Cabo Cortés:

  •  Does not comply with requirements related to a necessary authorization by the General Wildlife Directorate for the use, management and conservation of native species and species potentially used to create artificial wetlands.
  • Denied a time extension to designate a credited environmental professional for the project.
  • Denied a time extension for determining the location and characteristics for temporary storage of toxic waste.
  • Did not comply with the requirements related to environmental monitoring during different project stages.
  • Did not comply with requirements related to oceanographic monitoring that should include real-time measurements with permanent buoys.
  • Did not comply with conditions related to the location and surface area of a turtle refuge.
  • Denied a time extension to carry out reforestation activities.
  • Denied a time extension to carry out a required topographical survey to monitor the coastline.
  • Denied a time extension to carry out a required monitoring program of the salt wedge.

 It should be pretty evident now to Mr. Elvira and President Calderón that that the Cabo Cortés project does not comply with environmental protections and is now out of time.  Yet for some reason Semarnat has still not revoked its conditional permits nor cancelled the project outright – despite having communicated these very failings to the project proponent back in April.

There should be no further delay. There are better options for the Cabo Pulmo area that will not degrade the national park and its fragile marine ecosystems. This project does not have to and should not move forward. Join us in urging President Calderón to do the right thing and  cancel the Cabo Cortés project now

Photo Credit: Octavio Aburto