Pressure on controversial Cabo Cortés coastal project mounts as Mexican Congress weighs in

Credit: Ralph Lee Hopkins

Mexico’s National Congress has given the Ministry of the Environment (SEMARNAT) just fifteen days to report back on actions surrounding the environmental impact approvals granted to the controversial Cabo Cortés mega-tourism project. The Congress also urged the Ministry to explore cancelling the project’s permits all together. The massive Cabo Cortés project is proposed by the local subsidiary of Spanish developer Hansa Urbana on land neighboring Cabo Pulmo National Park – a critical marine reserve in Baja California Sur that protects one of the region’s most important coral reefs.  Last year SEMARNAT granted key permits to the project, despite a woefully weak environmental assessment and serious concerns that the project would irreparably degrade this fragile area. As NRDC’s recent investor advisory report on the project points out, this increasing political scrutiny is just one reason why Cabo Cortés would be an imprudent investment for potential investors.   There can be better and more sustainable alternatives for the Cabo Pulmo region, but this particular type of project is not it. Investors, and the Mexican government, should just say no to Cabo Cortés.

A couple of months ago, the Senate’s Natural Resources and Environment Commission called on Environment Minister Juan Rafael Elvira to testify about the project – the very first time during this current government that  Mr. Elvira was asked to appear before the Commission.  During his testimony he staunchly defended Cabo Cortés and its environmental impact review, but the Senators were far from convinced and their discomfort with the project was evident. 

Now,  the  Permanent Commission of Mexico’s National Congress has seemingly upped the ante by giving SEMARNAT just fifteen days to explain, in writing, the “alleged acts of collusion between public servants” and Hansa Urbana related to the permits the Ministry granted last year. The Senators and Deputies are also requesting information about actions that lead up to approval of the project’s Environmental Impact Statement. Significantly, they also called on SEMARNAT to explore legal possibilities for reversing the permits it granted all together.  

The Cabo Pulmo park and its coral reef system is a haven for nesting marine turtles, marine mammals and over 200 species of fish – experts have even described it as the most robust marine reserve in the world. In its ruling the Permanent Committee notes that Hansa Urbana, through its Mexican subsidiary Hansa Baja Investments “represents a serious threat to this protected area”. The legislators also expressed their disapproval of “any act that could result in any type of loss in the ecosystem or any detriment caused by contamination resulting from possible construction in the area.”  

It’s clear these Senators and deputies understand the Cabo Cortés project is simply not the right type of development for Cabo Pulmo. It would harm irreplaceable natural resources and a local community that has fought long and hard to protect the marine park.   It’s also not the type of project investors should tie themselves to. It presents far too many environmental threats and entails serious legal, political, market and other risks that should raise red flags among potential investors.  

The local Cabo Pulmo community is working to create more sustainable alternatives that will allow for the long-term sustainable growth of their region yet also preserve the marine reserve and its critical coral reef system. They’re looking for partners that share this vision. The government and smart investors who recognize that the true value of the region is in it’s incredible natural treasures should work with these local citizens – not support a risky project like Cabo Cortés.

 Photo Credit: Ralph Lee Hopkins