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Osa Developers Protest Environmental Crackdown

December 5, 2008

Developers angry about the closure of construction projects for alleged environmental violations reportedly blocked the coastal highway Thursday on the southern Pacific coast.

A freelance reporter in the area told The Tico Times the highway was closed about four hours, although a police spokesman said there were no reports of traffic being blocked. The spokesman said an “orderly” protest took place at the BallenaNationalMarinePark.

Organizers could not be reached by cell phone, likely due to poor reception in the remote area.

Victor Solís, who heads up the Chamber of Developers in the southern canton of Osa, said Wednesday that he expected between 1,000 and 1,200 protestors to show up, and they would block the Costanera coastal highway just north of Dominical and just south of Uvita.

“While it is true that there needs to be some control over development in the area, it is also true that there are people that live from it and depend on development for work,” Solís said.

The Environmental Tribunal, an administrative court of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET), has carried out surprise inspections of construction projects in the canton of Osa three times this year.

Two of those have targeted the Fila Costeña mountain range, where researchers and environmentalists have warned that uncontrolled development is heavily damaging the environment and affecting coastal ecosystems and communities below.

A total of 35 projects along the mountain range have been suspended or put under investigation for potentially violating their construction permits, lacking permits all together or breaking environmental laws.

Solís alleges that projects are being closed down on simple suspicion, and some have gone for as long as eight months without seeing a formal accusation, forcing developers to fire their workers.

“Eight hundred people are now unemployed,” Solís said. “We consider it a total abuse of authority.”

Solís acknowledged that three of the nine developments that he represents have been suspended by the tribunal but denies any environmental wrongdoing.

José Lino Chaves, head judge at the tribunal, insisted all projects were closed with cause.

“Nothing is suspended without a technical report that tells us if there is environmental damage or not, or if (the developers) went beyond what their environmental permits allow,” Chaves said.

Chaves said his inspections uncovered illegal logging, construction within protected areas along rivers, streams and springs and unauthorized movements of earth – often roads or foundations dug without

permits.

–Leland Baxter-Neal

 

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