A fine mess you’ve left us with – the state of the Costa Rican environment: part 1
With a new president (Laura Chinchilla) taking office in May, it’s appropriate to examine the environmental state of the country and carefully note the ecological ruin that the last administration (Oscar Arias) is now leaving us with:
Expanded Pineapple Cultivation: In the last 4 years pineapple production has expanded from 15,000 hectares to more than 54,000 hectares – and possibly much more if the agrarian census were updated. This growth was supposed to be beneficial to the country, increasing the number of jobs and overall GDP. However, the opposite is true in pineapple growing areas where environmental damage, disease, and plagues of flies are the reality. Since July 2007 more than 6,000 people in Siquirres, located on the country’s central Caribbean lowlands, drink trucked-in water at a cost of US $27,000 per month because of the irresponsible pollution of drinking water with herbicides such as Bromacil and other toxic substances. Mass production of pineapples requires full sun, intense chemical applications, and finely tilled soil. Photographs of the pineapple expansion show the massive elimination of forested areas, in addition to soil and water contamination, and other environmental impacts due to erosion and solid waste production.
Mining: In 2008, without prior consultation, the Arias administration lifted the moratorium on mining for metals in Costa Rica. The decision opened up a mining Pandora’s box that allowed the Crucitas strip mining proposal to be given environmental feasibility and declared of national benefit. The Canadian mining company Industrias Infinito S.A. had bulldozed away more than fifty hectares of forest in San Carlos (northern Nicaraguan boarder) before being momentarily paralyzed by 18 appeals filed on the grounds of unconstitutionality by social and environmental organizations. But the Canadian mining project, the largest in Central America, was once again granted permission by the Supreme Court (Sala IV) to open its doors and continue the liberal application of cyanide to the extracted earth in order to remove the valuable golden particles. It is now feared that the Court’s ruling will lead to a swarm of permits for other mining companies, something that would be hard for environmental organizations to stop given the country’s responsibilities acquired through CAFTA.
Decree to dismantle the “Green Belt” around San José: In February the Arias administration continued its commitment to environmental destruction by issuing an executive decree to open up the 200 meter green belt, or environmental buffer zone that encircles the greater metropolitan area, to intensive urbanization. The decision leaves environmentally “vulnerable” and “extremely vulnerable” areas open to urban development under the pretext that there was no area left for development within the belt. The zone in question replenishes vital below ground aquifers, as well as contains protected mountainsides in northern Heredia and in parts of Alajuela. The decree also ignores the fact that there are still 9,000 hectares for land still considered adequate for development within the GMA. The Sala IV has admitted an appeal against the decree on the grounds of unconstitutionality and has suspended development efforts until a ruling is handed down.
Part 2 of this post will include flagrant environmental atrocities concerning:
Coastal Development in Guanacaste and the central Pacific
Water in Sardinal