Mexico City – The government should cancel the permits granted to Spanish developer Hansa Urbana for its Cabo Cortes tourism complex in Mexico's Baja California Sur state, the World Wildlife Fund, or WWF, said.
The coastal-urban project represents a serious threat to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the Gulf of California where its development is set to take place, WWF-Mexico representative Exequiel Ezcurra said in a press conference on Monday.
The project would have a predictably negative impact on Cabo Pulmo, a protected area "described by the scientific community as the healthiest marine reserve in the world," Ezcurra said.
Other environmental groups, including Greenpeace, began alleging in mid-2010 that Hansa's project, which calls for a total investment of some $2 billion, would affect the 20,000-year-old Cabo Pulmo reef, one of the oldest in Mexico's Pacific region and located just 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) from the tourism complex.
Cabo Pulmo is home to 226 of the 875 species of fish that live in northwest Mexico's Gulf of California, government reports say.
The Mexican government declared Cabo Pulmo a protected area in 1995 and it is now a national park sprawling over 7,111 hectares (17,558 acres), with about 99 percent of the park made up of protected marine areas.
"The project is badly authorized, ill advised, flies in the face of public opinion as well as the internal opinion of the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat, and ignores all scientific evidence that counsels against its authorization," Ezcurra said.
Accepting the destruction of an ecosystem so valuable to local communities without saying anything "would be a crime against future generations," the WWF-Mexico official said.
The project would have an infrastructure at least twice the size of the biggest tourism development in the state, Los Cabos, which has 11,026 rooms, of which practically half are unoccupied most of the year, WWF-Mexico director general Omar Vidal said.
Cabo Pulmo is an example of the ecological benefits that healthy ecosystems provide, an internationally accepted model of successful environmental, social and economic development," Vidal said.
The developer, however, said last week that its buildings "will not affect Cabo Pulmo" and that it is being targeted by a "disinformation" campaign.
The resort, which is being developed by Hansa Urbana unit Hansa Baja Investments, covers 3,800 hectares (9,382 acres), of which 2,500 hectares (6,172 acres) will be protected natural areas and 1,300 hectares (3,210 acres) will be developed, Cabo Cortes director Jesus Guilabert said.
Cabo Cortes "is not going to appear from one day to the next" and will "grow in an orderly manner," Guilabert said.
Development plans call for building about 8,000 condominium units, 15 hotels, a marina with 490 slips and two 18-hole golf courses at Cabo Cortes, developers said last month.
The project will create about 19,000 jobs, including 8,000 direct jobs and 11,000 indirect positions, the development company says.
The Environment Secretariat approved Cabo Cortes's environmental impact statement in September 2008.
The project was later temporarily halted when a resident filed a request for a review of the project.
Environmental officials gave the go-ahead to the project for the second time in March, but they set certain conditions.