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Deficiencies in Cabo Dorado environmental impact assessment brought to light

Carolina Herrera

Posted May 8, 2014

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Heeding the calls of civil society and concerned citizens, Mexico’s environmental authority (Semarnat) will hold a public information meeting on Cabo Dorado – the massive tourism and real-estate complex proposed just north of and adjacent to Cabo Pulmo National Park – tomorrow May 8th. Since the 22,500 room project was first announced, thousands of citizens worried about the risks such a project would entail have urged Semarnat to organize an information session on its impacts, including on the fragile Cabo Pulmo coral reef and the region’s scarce water supplies.  Local civil society groups and experts have also been cautioning how the project would threaten the region’s fragile ecosystems and natural resources. At the upcoming information session these experts will present the key results of their technical and scientific reviews of Cabo Dorado’s nearly 1,000 page environmental impact statement and will discuss the key deficiencies and irregularities they’ve identified. You can watch a livestream of the public information session at this link.

Some of the main issues of concern they’re expected to raise about the proposed mega resort complex include:

  • Risks to the critically important coral reefs of Cabo Pulmo National Park, considered both a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO and Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.  In fact, both these institutions visited the site in 2011 and released a joint report recommending that Mexico consider restricting large-scale development in the vicinity of the park to avoid risky cumulative impacts.
  • The proposal by Cabo Dorado fails to consider that the national park’s management plan defines a 200 meter area of influence around the park’s perimeter, even though portions of the Cabo Dorado lands fall within this very area.
  • The local ecological zoning program for the Los Cabos municipality prohibits construction on the recharge zones of aquifers. In this arid, water-scarce region of the Baja California peninsula it is of utmost importance to take all precautions necessary when it comes to groundwater. And yet, the Cabo Dorado proposal which would entail the equivalent of over 22,500 rooms distributed among hotels and residential units proposes to construct infrastructure on these fragile zones.  
  • The construction of Cabo Dorado would mean a huge jump in the region’s population which could easily overtax the limited fresh water resources.  A project of this scale and scope would essentially require a whole new ‘support city’ for employees, service providers, their families and others.  This could mean an additional water demand of 50 million cubic meters per year in an area that is already parched.

The stakes are high. And it’s imperative for Semarnat to carefully consider these grave concerns as it makes a determination on Cabo Dorado. If an ill-conceived project like Cabo Dorado moves forward it could imperil the limited water supply of the local communities and the Cabo Pulmo coral reef, one Mexico and the world’s biodiversity crown jewels.  Two years ago when Mexico cancelled the controversial Cabo Cortés project – proposed for this very same site – it showed the type of environmental leadership we need to see more of. It’s now time for Mexico to do the right thing again and safeguard both the Cabo Pulmo reef and the welfare of local residents. 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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