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May 19, 2011

Spanish Construction Company Puts Mexican Paradise in Jeopardy

Article provided by El Mundo Spain
National Park Cabo Pulmo. Image provided by Ralph Lee Hopkins

By Yasmina Jiménez | Madrid

Article provided by El Mundo Spain


Mexico, Gulf of California, the municipality of Los Cabos. On Earth, dunes and deserted beaches, are used only by the turtles that traveled pass them during certain months of the year to spawn. In the sea, the oldest coral reef in the Mexican Pacific is alive with all the colors under water. This paradise is called Cabo Pulmo and its keeper is a small coastal town. His enemy: the Spanish company Hansa Urbana, a Spanish company that has decided to build a second Cancun in this Mexican Garden of Eden.

Cabo Cortés is the name of the project, aimed at tourists with high purchasing power, and that will occupy "an area of over 9,390 acres, that will include a marina, two golf courses, up to 30,000 rooms and 5,000 homes for workers, basically a housing capacity nearly equal to Cancun,” said Greenpeace in his report titled: 'Cabo Cortés: destroying a paradise. "

The conflict arising with this “new” Cancun is that it will border to the north with Cabo Pulmo, a Natural Protected Area since 1995 and considered a Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO since 2005. Since 2008, when the company Hansa Urbana obtained authorization from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico (SEMARNAT) to begin construction, local and international organizations have not grown tired of denouncing the impacts that this project will cause.

"Cabo Cortés might have a totally destructive impact on the coral reef and the entire ecosystem. The environmental impact study has many weaknesses that have not been corrected and is based on false or misleading information; it does not analyze in depth some of the potentially serious impacts, and ignores the social problems that can generate massive influx of workers into a sparsely populated region and a place lacking many necessary services,” complains Fay Crevoshay spokesman for the organization WiLDCOAST. 

And there are many factors that affect the place that is home to giant manta rays, sharks, sea turtles, the passing route of the humpback whales and a haven for protected species considered rare or threatened. The marina alone is cause for complaint: which will consist of 490 berths and will be built in an area of dunes, which would affect the tidal flow and threaten the delicate ecosystem.

The people of Cabo Pulmo

Another of the problems facing this Mexican paradise is the use of a desalination plant that will supply the new city with 65% of drinking water that they will need. Greenpeace says that "the desalination plant will provide an amount of 750 liters per second and will return 500 liters of spoil water and brines to the sea."  The rest of the drinking water that will be used for Cabo Cortés will be extracted from wells, which means that "it will monopolize the water from the only significant aquifer in one of the country's most desert ecosystems," said Greenpeace in its report, which is concerned about private control of water community.

The people of Cabo Pulmo, which consist about 120 people, have taken very seriously the protection of their Garden of Eden. In recent years they have opted for the environmental conservation and sustainable tourism model. The number of visitors is controlled, but those lucky enough to come can enjoy the nature of the place, watching the animals on land or scuba diving. Now, they are concerned about the possible influx of tourists and do not forget that water will be controlled.

"The project Cabo Cortés is threatening our livelihood. And it's unfair that Cabo Cortes is getting granted the concession of 4.5 million cubic meters of water in a deserted area, when we needed too and to discharge the brines into the ocean that will lead to the reef," says Mario Castro, a resident of the community.

Greenpeace believes that the fact that the permit was initially granted to the Spanish construction company and it is now being amended due to irregularities, demonstrates the lack of rigor when it comes to approving projects that threaten the environment.

"It's amazing to authorize a predator project like Cabo Cortés with a single step and two years later, only by the pressure of society and legal resources, decided to modify the authorization. We do not want to modify the authorization, we want to cancel it, there are arguments that go beyond legal resources, threatening to Cabo Pulmo," complains Alejandro Olivera, spokesman for Greenpeace Mexico.

Hansa Urbana irregularities

The Spanish firm Hansa Urbana has accumulated in Spain a series of investigations of irregularities in the approval process for a project known as Novo Carthago in Cartagena, especially in regard to the treatment planning and the process of reclassification of the land.

The Office of Murcia investigated this after learning that the golf course would be built in a protected area by the European Union. At the moment, construction is stopped, and not just because of legal issues, but also because of the economic crisis.

The environmental organization has also found other dirt on the construction company. In May 2010, Rafael Galea, CEO of Hansa Urbana was called to testify by a judge alleged by the existence of "reasonable suspicion" of involvement in crimes against the Treasury and falsification of documents. The amounts of the crime exceed six million euros.

Greenpeace considers "unacceptable that the Spanish real estate and tourism companies, key players in the unsustainable development carried out in Spain in recent years, pretend to reproduce in other countries the same disasters they have cause here."

"Its business model in the short term ignores the dangerous social, environmental and labor impacts of their projects and compromises the welfare of future generations in exchange for quick profits for the few," said Mabel strong Bustelo of Greenpeace Spain.

All the complaints are very real of the American country, where in nearby areas of Baja California Sur there are other resorts and hotels that do not reach anywhere near the expected occupancy rates. In 2009, Los Cabos was had 22% capacity and in 2010 will be in the best case, 60%. "So what is recommended in economic terms Cabo Cortés?