Mexico’s Cabo Pulmo National Park may once more be under threat from a mega tourism resort. Barely two months since President Calderón announced the cancellation of the controversial Cabo Cortés tourism and residential development, a new company has proposed a modified version of the project. The new proposal – now known as “Los Pericúes” – is planned for the same stretch of coastal land near Cabo Pulmo National Park where Cabo Cortés was proposed. This new iteration also includes many of the same components that raised red flags with Cabo Cortés - a marina, golf courses, air strip, and numerous large hotels that could place pressure on the surrounding ecosystems and local communities. The cancellation of the Cabo Cortés environmental permits in June was widely celebrated as a major win for marine conservation. Now this new project must be closely scrutinized to ensure that it does not – as Cabo Cortés did –threaten what is one of the most important marine reserves in the world.
Despite the new name, the project appears to be strikingly similar. Los Pericúes is proposed for 3,769 hectares in the exact same location as Cabo Cortés. Like Cabo Cortés it stands to change the current landscape entirely. Los Pericúes would include nine hotel lots (eight of which are proposed on currently unobstructed beach front) and 6,650 residential units. The project also includes two 18-hole golf courses, a 300-slip marina, desalination and waste water treatment plants, an airstrip, commercial and service zones, and other infrastructure….Sound familiar? With only slight variations, that description is very close to the cancelled Cabo Cortés proposal.
The environmental impact statement (MIA) for Los Pericúes is over 1,000 pages long. The groups that previously worked to defend the Cabo Pulmo marine reserve are currently scrutinizing it to determine if the similarities between the two projects go deeper. Cabo Cortés threatened to irreparably degrade a thriving coral reef system recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Another project of similar scale could do the same by impacting critical habitat for hundreds of fish species, marine mammals and five of the world’s endangered marine turtle species.
One thing that is different so far is the company behind the project. According to the project’s MIA, the proponent of the Los Pericúes project is La Rivera Desarrollos BCS with financing from OHL Desarrollos, the Mexican subsidiary of Spain’s Grupo OHL, (Cabo Cortés was proposed by the Mexican subsidiary of Spain’s Hansa Urbana). In Mexico, OHL has developed coastal resorts that are recognized for their efforts at environmental sustainability. This provides one small glimmer of hope that Los Pericúes is not merely Cabo Cortés 2.0. But until we finish reviewing the MIA it is unclear whether, unlike the previous project proponent, OHL and La Rivera Desarrollos are abiding by local environmental and land use regulations, relying on scientifically rigorous data, and proposing all necessary steps to avoid impacting the area’s fragile ecosystems and natural resources.
The scope and magnitude of Los Pericúes is so similar to Cabo Cortés that at first glance it appears to be more of the same. If it is, the local organizations and residents that fought for years to protect Cabo Pulmo National Park stand ready to once more work to protect the park and ensure that any development in the region is environmentally and socially sustainable over the long-term. And NRDC will stand right beside them.