Monday, June 17, 2024

Judge suspends controversial tourism project in Puerto Escondido

A local judge has ordered the definitive suspension of work on a new tourism complex in Punta Colorada, the last virgin beach in the popular Oaxaca surf town of Puerto Escondido.

The seventh district judge in Salina Cruz issued the ruling in response to an injunction filed by the Save Puerto Escondido coalition in December. The petition gathered 300 signatures from local activists and had already achieved a provisional suspension.

Puerto Escondido’s Playa Colorada is the last undeveloped beach in the area. (Puerto Escondido Guide)

The coalition argued that the project, which planned to cover 111 hectares of the Puerto Escondido Ecological Reserve, in the San Pedro Mixtepec municipality, lacked necessary permits and would threaten protected species of flora and fauna, including endangered leatherback sea turtles, reefs and mangroves. They also feared that it would disturb Punta Colorada’s renowned surf.

The development was promoted by the municipal authorities of San Pedro Mixtepec and Oaxaca governor Salomon Jara Cruz, who designated it one of his government’s strategic projects.

The draft plan, presented in a closed-door meeting in September, said that the complex would include “a commercial, hotel and reserve zone with public-private parks and a residential area.”

A statement by Oaxaca’s then-government said: “It will be a joint decision with the people to determine what project will be executed there. We are going to talk to all the social, economic and political sectors, and we will take the people into account.” Despite this, no public consultation ever took place.

The beach is home to a popular sea turtle conservation sanctuary, where tourists can release newly-hatched turtles into the Pacific Ocean. (Emily Havler-Barrett/Instagram)

Soon after the draft plan was presented, residents began to hold public demonstrations against both the proposed tourism project and pollution caused by a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), which they said the new complex would make worse.

“[Punta Colorada] is currently being polluted with the discharge of wastewater from more than 100 sewage pipes a day,” said María Almendra Gomezleyva Melchor, coordinator of Salvemos Colorada, at the time. “The WWTP is not functional and all the wastewater …forms open-air streams which flow directly into the Colorado lagoon and into the sea.”

The local authorities’ failure to inspect, verify and sanction these acts of pollution is listed in the injunction filed in December. The activists also pointed out that a long-awaited highway linking the city of Oaxaca with the coast, will accelerate the development and gentrification of the area, making regulation even more crucial.

The coalition invited supporters to celebrate the victory, saying: “We have achieved a lot and we are going for many more injunctions, to the benefit of all citizens of Puerto Escondido.”

With reports from El Universal, Proceso, Quadratin and Publimetro


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