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Protected natural areas of Holbox earmarked for development

Holbox, Q.R. — Approximately 22 kilometers of protected natural area has been earmarked for tourism development projects on Holbox, in the region of Yum Balam.

Gustavo Alanís Ortega, general director of the Mexican Center for Environmental Law says, “There are intentions to go against natural resources such as the mangroves to build hotels or issues of that nature, however, we think it is nonsense.”

Around 22 kilometers of the Protected Natural Area (ANP) of Yum Balam has been set aside for tourism development projects with the endorsement of the municipal government of Lázaro Cárdenas.

On April 13, the municipality of Lázaro Cárdenas published the Urban Development Program showing Holbox Isla Chica, Holbox Isla Grande and Chiquilá being declared as population centers, which are part of Yum Balam protected natural area.

According to information from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the new population center will be along 22 kilometers of the coastal dune “that has not been disturbed and that is in perfect state of conservation”.

Yum Balam is home to lagoons, mangroves, wetlands, coastal dunes, coral reefs, jungle and turtle nesting sites, as well as numerous animals including endangered species such as the jaguar, tapris and puma. The waters are home to species such as dolphins and whale sharks, while the area attracts more than 420 bird species.

Alanís Ortega explained that “The General Law of Ecological Equilibrium is very clear in the sense that it prohibits, does not allow, does not give the opportunity or the possibility that population centers can be created within the ANP.

“The only one that has attribution and competence is the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Semarnat via the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas that can regulate some types of activities.

“The municipal authority does not have the authority to allow it,” he stressed.

In July of 2017, the entire island of Holbox was closed for a day while authorities dealt with environmental issues including lack of electricity and sanitary drainage.

In December, the municipal president of Lázaro Cadenas, Emilio Jiménez Ancona, said that development permits were on hold because the area was not ready in that it still lacked enough basic services.

Earlier this year, the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection shut down a total of 21 projects for failing to comply with environmental regulations as set out with the Protected Natural Area of Yum Balam.