An inspection by the National System of Conservation Area (SINAC) regional office in Tempisque confirmed that thousands of square meters of vegetation were illegally removed from the shoreline in front of the recently opened Hotel Riu in Matapalo de Sardinal in the northwest province of Guanacaste.
According to the inspection, 8,220 square meters of mangrove trees that existed before construction of the hotel began are gone. Costa Rican law prohibits the removal of mangrove trees.
The inspection also revealed that an additional 6,800 square meters of vegetation was eliminated within the 50-meter pubic zone, where construction or alteration of natural resources of any kind is illegal.
Inspectors found dozens of exotic plants that had been introduced in the public zone, which also is illegal, and noticed damage to a nearby stream.
José Miguel Valverde, of SINAC’s Tempisque office, said a report will be presented, probably next week, to the head of SINAC and to the Environment Tribunal.
The Confraternity of Guanacaste, an environmental group, in late October filed an injunction against Hotel Riu for allegedly cutting down mangrove trees during construction of the 701-room resort (TT Nov. 13). The case will be reviewed by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV).
The group claims to have photos and eyewitness accounts of construction crews working in the middle of the night to clear mangroves and other vegetation within the public zone.
The Environment Tribunal will review the inspection report and photos to determine if Hotel Riu should be penalized for illegally tampering with the public zone.
The environemental group said it will present the report to the Sala IV as further evidence of their claims.
Hotel Riu’s legal representative, Roberto Echeverría, told The Tico Times last month that the company complied with all required construction permits. Regarding the mangrove trees, he said, “There are no permits to destroy mangroves. That is a question you will have to ask the hotel.”