Top government officers ordered to grant the Caletas Wetland strict protection
Previous mandates have not been implemented.
(July 31, 2013 – San José, Costa Rica)
Costa Rica´s Administrative Environmental Tribune (Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo, TAA) ordered an array of chief government officers to implement a series of measures to protect the endangered Caletas Wetland from further destruction. The call on the higher ranking officers responds to the fact that the TAA’s previous resolutions to protect the Caletas Wetland, issued since 2009, have not been implemented.
“The Costa Rican authorities are in debt with the Caletas Wetland”, said Randall Arauz, of PRETOMA, a local NGO that works to protect the Caletas Wetland and an associated sea turtle nesting beach since 2002. “There is still time to save the wetland, but immediate measures must be taken to stop the destruction and initiate conservation and restoration activities before it´s too late,” warned Arauz.
For several years now, the farming company Agropecuaria Caletas S.A., has once and again shown its disregard towards domestic laws that protect wetlands, as well as its commitment to destroy the Caletas Wetland and turn it into farmland, by building roads and drainages in it, as well as spraying it with poisonous chemicals. Furthermore, a barbed wire fence was installed bordering the wetland in 2006, just 5 meters above the high tide line (in Costa Rica Public Law establishes a 50 meter inalienable public zone above the high tide line). In spite of direct orders by the TAA since April 3 of 2009 (390-09-03-TAA) and January 26 of 2012 (102-12-TAA) to halt any further activities, the responsible authorities have seemingly taken no actions.
Thus, the TAA orders Rafael Gutiérrez Rojas, Director of the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC), and Nelson Marín, Director of the Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT) to report within 10 days, the actions they have taken, or will take, for the effective implementation of the TAAs’s resolutions, and to determine the cost of the environmental damage.
Furthermore, the TAA orders Mario Zamora Cordero, Minister of Public Security, Jorge Fernández Chacón, Director of Civil Aviation, Magda González Arroyo, Director of the Sate Phytosanitary Service, and Emmanuel Villalobos, President of the Advisory Commission for the Control and Regulation of Agricultural Aviation Activities, to take all measures to guarantee that no flights are allowed to spray chemicals from airplanes in the Caletas Wetland. A first report must be submitted within 10 days, followed by bimonthly reports.
Finally, the TAA orders Max Lobo Hernández, Executive Director of the National Geographic Institute, to issue a report within 10 days, regarding the institutions position on the fence built by the farming company, and if it is invading the public zone or not. The TAA makes it clear that according to its own inspection, the fence is only 5 meters above the high tide line.
“This type of habitat is critically endangered, and serves as a buffer zone for the neighboring sea turtle nesting beach”, said Mariano Castro, of Pretoma. “Let´s hope this call on higher ranking officers finally brings some change, and that policies are dictated to restore the habitat and develop programs that involve the sustainable involvement of neighboring communities.
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Some background information:
- The Caletas Arío National Wildlife Refuge (CANWR) was created by Executive Decree N° 33232-MINAE (La Gaceta, N°145 of August 11, 2006). It´s area extends from Punta Coyote (Nandayure) to the Chapetón Estuary (Cóbano), with a total extension of 313.3 hectares of beaches, mangrove swamps, estuaries and Public Maritime Zone, including 19,486.3 hectares of Marine Protected Area.
- An extensive wetland of 150 hectares occurs next to the CANWR, inside the Public Maritime Zone, also known as the Caletas Wetland. It wasn’t possible to include the wetland into the Wildlife Refuge at the time of its creation, because the farming companies Agropecuria Caletas S.A., Desarrollos Agroturísticos Punta Coyote S.A., and Finca el Pencal S.A., claim the wetland is on private property, because of which it is necessary to wait for a final resolution of the Administrative Contencious Tribune (Exp. Judicial nº 00-000597-0163-CA) in a case that was promoted by the State Attorney itself in 2000, which seeks to nullify the deeds used for the “irregular” registration of the property.
- On May 2 of 2007, officers of the Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT) of the Ministry of Environment (MINAE) filed formal suit at the Attorney´s Office in Nicoya for environmental damages (ACT-OSRH-249), as it was considered that the construction of a 1km gravel road through the Caletas Wetland, including dikes, drainages, and landfills, constitutes a clear violation of article 45 of the Organic Environment Law, which forbids activities that interrupt the natural cycles of a wetland ecosystem.
- On July 29 of 2008, PRETOMA filed a new suit at the Environmental Administrative Tribune (Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo TAA) of the MINAE (Exp N° 303-08-03-TA), due to the continued construction of roads and landfills inside the Caletas Wetland.
- On April 3 of 2009, the EAT issued Resolution N° 390-09-TAA, through which an immediate precautionary measure was imposed, consisting in the halting of any activity in the wetland and the repair of the environmental damages. The EAT also requested an Environmental Damage Cost Study.
- On June 1 of 2009, the ACT issued report ACT-ASRH-335-09, which estimated environmental damages at 12 million colones (US$23K). The report estimated that it would take up to 5 YEARS for the Caletas wetland to recover from the damages, from the moment the landfills and roads were eliminated. No environmental damages were ever paid.
- On June 23 of 2010, the Attorney of Nicoya (07-000506-414-PE) ordered the extraction of all the materials that were deposited in the wetland for the construction of the road, in accordance with article 140 of the Penal Process Code. No such actions were ever taken.
- On July 20 and 31 of 2010, a small airplane sprayed chemicals repeatedly over the Caletas Wetland, causing the massive mortality of fish and crustaceans in the mouth of the Río Bongo. No actions were ever taken against the culprits, in spite of supporting video evidence.
- On August 26 of 2013, in Nagoya Japan, during the X Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Costa Rica was awarded by the World Wetland Network the “Global Grey Award” for failure to protect the Caletas Wetland.
- On January 26 of 2012, the TAA reiterated its orders to the ACT (102-12-TAA).