COSTA Rica has continued to expand vertically, with developments and construction spreading from urban to coastal areas, where authorities have suspended many an illegal project this year.
The Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, in the Caribbean province of Limón, remained at the heart of a struggle between developers and environmentalists who denounced illegal construction in the Maritime Zone (ZMT), a stretch of 200 meters of state-owned land from the high-tide line, and claimed wetlands in the area had been drained and dried.
By September, an order from the Comptroller General’s Office, which forces municipalities to ensure structures constructed in the public area of the Maritime Zone – its first 50 meters – are demolished, had led to 16 demolitions in Santa Cruz, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste. In November, two beachfront homes in the popular tourist destination of Playa Sámara were torn down. By that month, the Municipality of Nicoya had demolished a total eight houses. The Comptroller’s Office reprimanded three municipalities – Santa Cruz, Nicoya, also in Guanacaste, and Golfito, in the Southern Zone – for failing to protect the Maritime Zone.
Meanwhile, authorities expropriated Hotel Las Palmas, inside Gandoca-Manzanillo, putting an end to a 12-year controversy revolving around accusations from environmental groups that Jan Kalina, the owner of Las Palmas, had drained marshlands, cut trees and built in the Maritime Zone.
The environmental branch of the Prosecutor’s Office requested in March that the criminal court of the Caribbean port town of Limón suspend use of a controversial 1996 management plan that environmentalists described as lax. In October, the Legislative Assembly passed a law that turned the Caribbean beach towns of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo into cities, a classification that excludes them from the Maritime Zone Law.