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November 17, 2011

UNESCO, Ramsar and IUCN met NGOs working to protect Cabo Pulmo

"Save Cabo Pulmo, No Cabo Cortes!”
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Clock wise from the top left: Reporters, Special Joint Mission: IUCN, RAMSAR, UNESCO, Citizens of Baja California Sur, Federal Authorities, Students and Teacher from University

On Nov 15th 2011 at 9am, more than 30 students from the Degree of Alternative Tourism gathered to meet the historic special Joint Mission of UNESCO (World Heritage Sites) and RAMSAR(Convention for Wetlands of International Importance) at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, with signs “Cabo Cortes is a Destructive Scam” (In Spanish “Cabo Cortes - Engaño Destructivo”) and “C.A.M. is a Scam” (Caja de Ahorro del Mediterraneo – SpanishSavings Bank- who is now the controling owner of the development of Cabo Cortes. Warering the campaign t-shirt “Save Cabo Pulmo – NO to Cabo Cortes”, students and teachers waited for meetings between the Special Joint Mission and the authorities of PROFEPA, SEMARNAT, and CONAGUA to begin, but somehow the meeting was delayed and changed location. Reporters from Peninsular Digital, a major digital newspaper of Baja, interviewed the group and video the perspectives of the students. To see the story in Spanish, please click here

Later in the day, NGO groups presented to the Special Joint Mission a concise description of the threats Cabo Pulmo faces as result of mega development Cabo Cortes. AIDA, CEMDA, WiLDCOAST, Greenpeace, Niparaja, Amigos para la Conservacion de Cabo Pulmo, NRDC, ProNatura, Cabet Cultura y Desarrollo, and Iemanya presented diverse arguments, but the underlying message was clear:  Cabo Cortés would devastate the remarkable marine life in Cabo Pulmo as well as the local communities.

Summary:

•  There are serious legal problems with the partial approval Cabo Cortés received in early 2011, including:  the fragmented nature of the approval, in which some components were approved and others were not, is not allowed under Mexican Law; the approval allowed construction in and near sand dunes, which is explicitly forbidden in the Ecological Management Plan for Los Cabos; the authority arbitrarily decided not to apply specific policies in the case of Cabo Cortés that it has used as reasons to stop other projects; when faced with the lack of critical information, the authority should have applied the Precautionary Principle, but it did not in this case; there was no evaluation of the effects on the Santiago Aquifer from which Cabo Cortés would draw significant amounts of water (more on this below); and there was no consideration of the carrying capacity of Cabo Pulmo National Park, which would determine how much new activity and how many new visitors the park can handle without being negatively affected.

•  Cabo Cortés would effectively become a new city just north of Cabo Pulmo, with all of the accompanying infrastructure and public services.  It would include 2 million square feet of commercial and office space, a jet port, at least two 27-hole golf courses and an influx of over 100,000 new habitants (and likely more), in addition to the new hotels, 490-slip marina and tourists.  Yet it was not evaluated as such.  Instead, Cabo Cortés was evaluated component by component, without any integrated approach which would take into account the cumulative and interconnected impacts of all the components together – including social impacts on the communities already nearby.

•  Cabo Cortés does not make economic sense and will  not necessarily give jobs to the  local communities.  In fact, historicaly in the nearby major resort area of Los Cabos, hotel occupancy has hardly ever surpassed 40 percent, and a recent study by Expedia.com shows that 85 percent of tourists do not return to the area.  So Cabo Cortés, which would be less accessible than Los Cabos and would destroy that very natural resource people would travel to see –Cabo Pulmo—is hardly a secure financial investment or economy-boosting project, particularly after the temporary construction jobs end. Hansa Urbana and the CAM (Spanish savings bank) owners of the Cabo Cortes project are broke. The bank has benn saved by the Central Bank of Spain and is currently on tha auction table.

•  Cabo Cortés would get about 35 percent of its fresh water supply from the Santiago Aquifer, which is the only aquifer in the area that is not yet overexploited.  The most recent analysis of the aquifer (2009) shows that it contains roughly 4.8 million cubic meters annually available for concession.  The company has concessions for about 4.5 million cubic meters annually – a huge portion of the aquifer’s concessionable water for just one project.  In additional, there was no register of the concessions that were granted from 2002-2009, so the data used to evaluate the Santiago Aquifer’s available water actually dates back to 2002; therefore no one really knows how much of water is truly available and safe to consume.  The town of Cabo Pulmo, which draws off of the Cabo Pulmo Aquifer, is already facing a severe water shortage.

•  The rest of Cabo Cortés’s water supply would come from a desalination plant, which still is not approved as the company must submit an environmental impact assessment for this plant (part of the Secretary’s “parking lot”).  Yet, the sheer amount of water the plant would generate –it would generate 65 percent of the fresh water supply for the entire complex—would also create an extraordinary amount of hyper-salinated water, or brine, to be re-injected into the sea.  Currents would carry that brine inside the borders of Cabo Pulmo National Park, where it would impact the sensitive corals that form the basis of the ecosystem there. 

Activity on twitter, facebook was very busy - Follow us on twitter @SalvaCaboPulmo.

The citizens of Baja California are showing that they do not want Cabo Cortes to be built on “the most robust marine reserve on the planet”.

Please sign the petition to Save Cabo Pulmo and request the cancelation of permits of Cabo Cortes and tell others to sign the petition.

Thank you so much! We hope to see you in Cabo Pulmo soon!