Recognizing that their proposal is deeply flawed, the investors behind the Cabo Dorado project tried to make a tactical retreat by temporarily removing the project from formal consideration. In an open letter to President Peña Nieto and other officials printed today, the two companies pushing Cabo Dorado, the massive tourism and real-estate project proposed near Mexico’s Cabo Pulmo National Park, announced they would withdraw their project’s environmental impact statement and instead submit a revised version at a later date. Yet their attempted do-over was trumped by the announcement that SEMARNAT, Mexico’s environmental ministry, had in fact already made a decision on the project – a decision the company reportedly refused to formally receive. We’ll have to wait for SEMARNAT’s ruling to be made public (once the company receives it) to see what it says exactly. But one thing is crystal clear; the Cabo Dorado project is not the right type of project for the region.
For the past several weeks, evidence that the Cabo Dorado environmental impact statement was grievously deficient has steadily mounted. At the project’s public information meeting earlier this month, technical and scientific experts joined local citizens and civil society groups in highlighting that the Cabo Dorado proposal overlooked key information, presented erroneous data and failed to adequately assess the project’s impact on the region’s limited fresh water resources, biodiversity and the neighboring Cabo Pulmo coral reef, one of the most important reefs in the Gulf of California and recognized both as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. The technical comments submitted by the local authorities of the state of Baja California Sur also pointed to serious uncertainties regarding the project’s water and land use. Most recently, even the Mexican Congress started asking questions. Concerned that the project would cause irreversible damage to the region, senators and representatives of the Permanent Commission urged SEMARNAT earlier this week to prevent the project from moving forward until legislators were informed about Cabo Dorado’s environmental impact. The legislators also called for information on pending legal cases related to the project.
In fact, one of the most disturbing elements of the ongoing Cabo Dorado story is that while the developers’ open letter claims they want to present a new improved project that protects the region, their actions don’t seem to support their words. Local groups in Mexico point out that the company is working against updates to the local ecological zoning program that would actually strengthen protections to the Cabo Pulmo region. The company also hasn’t dropped legal efforts to revive the Cabo Cortés plan – the original version of their project, which was even larger and included additional elements like a marina.
It’s clear the company has not lost interest in constructing a project in Cabo Pulmo, in one form or another. This is just the latest chapter in an ongoing saga that started in 2008, with Cabo Cortés, continued in 2012, with Los Pericúes and took a new turn a few months ago with Cabo Dorado. What’s important now is that SEMARNAT act decisively to ensure that large-scale, high impact projects, with woefully weak environmental impact reviews do not harm the people and natural resources of Baja California Sur’s East Cape region. The local communities in the region deserve better than a destructive project cooked up without their insight or input and that threatens their water and natural surroundings.