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By Agustín del Castillo

The Pacific Coast Integrally Planned Center (CIP) at Esquinapa, Sinaloa, located north of the National Wetlands Biosphere Reserve, and the most important project being carried out by the National Fund for Tourism Development (FONATUR) under President Felipe Calderón, did not pass muster with experts from the Ramsar Advisory Mission who had been asked by the administration to audit the project. Their recommendation: that the project not be built as it is currently designed.

In the Advisory Mission’s final report dated August 9, 2010, they reasoned  that  a  tourist develop-
ment of such magnitude, design and visitor density as that proposed by FONATUR was not viable, when considering the region’s   environmental    impor-
tance to Mexico and the world as a wetland protected by the Ramsar Convention, the natural coastal environment and the vul-

The  Advisory   Mission's conclus-
ions concur with the results already  reported by environmen-
tal groups, those in academia, and the government’s own National Commission for Protected Areas (CONANP): that the EIR submitted by FONATUR "only identifies the impacts within the project's immediate vicinity and, in a disingenuous manner, fails to identify and evaluate the effects that such a project would generate in the ecosystem. Not even mentioned are  the  synergistic  and   accum-ulative effects that would result when   the   disruptions    of    this

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nerability of the Huizache-Caimanero Lagoon System with all of the pressures being placed upon it. The report was jointly produced by three representatives of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, of which Mexico is an associate member and ranked second in the world after Australia in the number of designated sites protected under the terms of the Convention.

The aforementioned experts are María Rivera, Claudia González and Rolain Borel, who visited the region during the period of July 21-26, 2010. They established that, although the area is listed as being two distinct Ramsar sites, each with its own mandate for federal protection, the National Wetlands in Nayarit and the Huizache-Caimanero Lagoon System in Sinaloa do in fact comprise   one   and    the    same
ecosystem.  They also determined that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as proposed by FONATUR is inadequate.

"The EIR study that was done fails to give a true picture of, and undervalues, the totality of the current water projects along the Presidio and Baluarte rivers, which replenish the National Wetlands. These projects, such as the construction of the Picachos and Santa Maria dams and more recently of the #111 Irrigation District will have accumulative effects    that    alter   the   hydro-
dynamics and water quality of the region," the 61-page report points out.

Ignoring these facts and failing to analyze the synergistic effects that are likely to come into play "doesn't give environmental authorities   the  necessary  infor-
mation to make sound decisions concerning   the    environmental
One of the environmental services provided by wetlands is protection from hurricanes. (Photo: Marco Vargas)
of 5,728 acres that borders the National Wetlands. President Felipe Calderón set the project's cornerstone in place on February 17, 2009, while announcing the investment of US$500 million in the venture. The project will include resort hotels, villas, condominiums and both tourist and urban housing. It will have a total of 43,981 rooms when completed. It will also include three golf courses, two marinas, dry-docks, channels, jetties and urban infrastructure and services.

"The Supreme Court of Justice has ruled that complying with international treaties, such as the Ramsar Convention, takes prece-
dence over federal and local laws. “We wonder if Semarnat’s Managing  Director for  Environ-
mental Impact and Risk will dare to challenge such a precedent," says Sandra Guido, Executive Director of Conselva A.C., a regional environmental agency.

multiple projects and how they complicate the maintaining of the fragile ecological balance," the Advisory Mission proposes the inclusion of the wetlands in the Montreux Registry, which is a short list of Ramsar Sites in greatest danger of disappearing from the face of the Earth.

This is an extract from a series of articles on the National Wetlands, courtesy of the newspaper Público of Guadalajara.

* Winner of the 2010 Walter Reuter Journalism Award and the Reuters-IUCN 2008 Regional Award for Excellence in Environmental Journalism.

the Wetlands. Since the project doesn't even have an EIR, they limit  themselves  to recommend-
ing that: “When defining the impacts, designing remediation measures and creating the EIR, the definition of the regional environmental system must include the entire National Wetlands Ramsar Site, as well as its ecological and hydrological interactions, and the associated generation of  goods and environ-
mental benefits.”

And because words are not enough,   "keeping   in   mind  the accumulative     effects    of     the

project are combined with the systemic disruptions caused by agriculture, aquaculture, and coastal fishing practices."  Thus, "the   omission  and   underestim-
ation of environmental impacts is obvious…"

The Advisory Mission’s members also voiced concerns about the increased complaints relating to the Federal Electric Commission’s proposed hydroelectric project at Las Cruces. This project will lead to the containment of the Mezquital River, which is the primary contributor of fresh water  to  the  southern section of
viability of the Pacific Coast CIP and the environmental impact produced by its construction."

In addition, "the EIR doesn't take into consideration the effects to the  greater  general  area,  espec-
ially when relating to the magnitude of the urbanization process and its resulting effects on Ramsar sites in particular. These results don't have to be caused by the project itself, necessarily, but rather, may be caused  by  the  quantity  of inter-
related  and  uncontrollable   pro-
cesses that are set in motion by an intervention of this enormity, out of the sight, and influence, of those who promote such projects.

The Pacific Coast Integrally Planned Center would be located in the municipality of Escuinapa de Hidalgo, Sinaloa, about 53 miles from the Mazatlan airport. The  project  site has  7.5 miles  of of  beachfront  and a surface area
Journalism to Raise Environmental Awareness