Isla Holbox: conservation vs. development. Isla Holbox: conservation vs. development.

Holbox restrictions could spark conflict

Federal agency proposes limits on development but not everyone likes them

A conflict is on the verge of breaking out between the federal government and residents of Isla Holbox over land-use restrictions.

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The disagreement arose after the National Natural Protected Areas Commission (Conanp) published a comprehensive management plan for the island on its website three weeks ago.

Since then, residents have rejected the plan, deeming it “authoritarian.” A vote by Conanp and an island advisory council to determine the validity of the proposed management plan is scheduled for next week in Cancún.

Holbox residents and businesses warn that social conflict will follow if Conanp goes ahead with its plan.

The director of the urban development and environment office of Lázaro Cárdenas municipality, in which Isla Holbox is located, said that communal landowners and businesspeople on the island will not accept a plan imposed by the federal government.

Guy Piña Herrera said islanders have “done their work, followed the rules and eagerly participated in meetings,” while the federal authority has assumed a “completely stubborn” stance.

Conanp’s proposal suggests that no more than 1.5% of the surface of the island should be developed for tourism. With a permitted density of 0.16 hotel rooms per hectare, the agency estimates there would be a total of 800 hotel rooms, either built directly on the land or as stilt houses.

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Conanp chief Alejandro del Mazo Maza said the environmental impact of the limited development would be “very low,” and that the commission’s main goal was “the conservation of the place, even if it causes problems for the people. Little by little they’ll realize why this was necessary.”

Del Mazo said Conanp’s stance is not authoritarian, but one that is based on environmental conservation. The island is located within the Yum Balam biosphere reserve.

Isla Holbox

Communal landowners are worried that the Conanp plan will inhibit socioeconomic development.

“The [hotel room] density they propose makes no sense, it’s zero, that’s no development. It’s 0.16 rooms per hectare but they’re not even on land, but on the sea, built on stilts, which is unfeasible because northerly winds and currents will tear those structures down,” said Yum Balam council chairman Alejandro Valdés.

“Residents, communal landowners and [business] owners have shown their interest in continuing with the conservation plans, they do not reject them, but [Conanp’s management plan] limits the possibility of developing any kind of economic activity on their property,” Piña said.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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