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HomeCosta RicaCosta Rica Court Protects Manuel Antonio National Park: Increase Visitor Flow Annulled

Costa Rica Court Protects Manuel Antonio National Park: Increase Visitor Flow Annulled

The Constitutional Court has taken a significant step in safeguarding the ecological integrity of Manuel Antonio National Park by annulling the decision of the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) to increase the number of visitors to the park.

In addition, the court has established a 24-hour deadline for SINAC and the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) to reduce the daily visitor limit from 3,000 to 1,120 individuals. This decision comes as a response to the court’s determination that the current flow of visitors places an overwhelming burden on the wilderness area, lacking the necessary technical study to support it.

The court’s ruling is rooted in the recognition that the existing visitor flow violates the right to an ecologically healthy and balanced environment, as enshrined in Article 50 of the Political Constitution. The principle of objectification of environmental protection was also cited in support of the decision.

To arrive at this conclusion, the judges relied on the 2022 visitor flow model, which established that a more sustainable limit of 1,120 tourists per day would be appropriate for the national park. Moreover, data provided by the conservation area itself revealed that the increase in visitors had pushed Manuel Antonio National Park beyond its capacity by a staggering 267.9%.

Rafael Guti√©rrez, the Vice Minister of the Environment, has expressed the government’s respect for the ruling of the Constitutional Court. He stated that instructions have been issued to adjust the number of visitors to Manuel Antonio National Park in accordance with the court’s decision. This commitment to comply with the ruling is essential in ensuring the long-term preservation of the park’s biodiversity and promoting sustainable tourism practices.

Conservation experts have criticized the proposed increase in daily visitation at Manuel Antonio, denouncing it as “touristic exploitation.” They have also raised concerns about the lack of technical evaluations regarding the potential damage this measure could inflict upon the area’s flora and fauna. The directors of the protected area had previously voiced their opposition to SINAC, emphasizing the need for authorities to prioritize the protection of natural areas rather than succumbing to external pressures.

Increasing the flow of tourists in such a biodiverse area would undoubtedly lead to the deterioration of the protected area and disrupt vital ecological processes. The experts further emphasized that the harm inflicted upon the ecosystem would not only compromise the integrity of the park but also have detrimental implications for the future of tourism itself.

By annulling the decision to increase visitor flow, the Constitutional Court has demonstrated its commitment to preserving the natural beauty and ecological balance of Manuel Antonio National Park. This ruling serves as a reminder of the importance of responsible and sustainable tourism practices, ensuring the protection of delicate ecosystems for generations to come.

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