San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Truce Worked Out in Southern Zone Row

Following protests last week, officials with the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET) agreed to work with developers, local laborers, fisherman and the municipal government to plan for sustainable development in the Southern Zone canton of Osa.

Hundreds of area residents blocked the Costanera coastal highway last week to demand their economic plight be taken into consideration when enforcing the region’s environmental regulations.

The canton of Osa includes the FilaCosteñaMountain range, the BallenaNationalMarinePark and CorcovadoNational Park, all fragile ecosystems along the southern Pacific coast and the OsaPeninsula.

Accords signed by MINAET and the OsaMunicipality the same day as the protest will create a commission to look into environmental problems in the area, examine real estate projects popping up in the region and propose short-term solutions.

In addition, MINAET will supply five additional officials to the Environmental Tribunal. During a series of surprise inspections in Osa, the tribunal suspended or put under investigation a total of 35 real estate projects along the Fila Costeña for potentially violating their construction permits, lacking permits altogether or breaking environmental laws and regulations.

Osa Mayor Jorge Alberto Cole has protested the closures, saying they left hundreds of his citizens unemployed. A developers chamber in Osa, which helped organize the recent protest, has said many projects that did not break any rules have been suspended regardless while the understaffed tribunal goes about its investigations.

The Environmental Tribunal, based in San José, has just three judges and a full-time staff of 12 to cover the entire country. The additional five positions created in these new accords will be dedicated to inspecting projects in Osa and speeding along those investigations, according to a statement from the Environmental Tribunal.

A contingent of local small-scale fishermen also joined the highway protest last week, upset over fishing restrictions and difficulties renewing their fishing permits.

MINAET agreed to temporarily renew their permits for one year, according to the tribunal’s statement.

A statement from the OsaMunicipality, which cheered the agreements, said that officials from various government agencies and ministries will meet again Feb. 13 to present their study of the region’s environmental problems and a plan of action.

–Leland Baxter-Neal


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