Government praised for taking action in Puerto Viejo, Cahuita

Costa Rica’s Environmental Laws have teeth!

I retired from a career in environmental protection in Florida to move here to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica where the environment is a source of pleasure and appreciation for me and many others. Some come here to appreciate the incredible biodiversity of an ecosystem in balance.

Some come here to make money from those eco-tourists who come here to appreciate the birds, the animals, the plants and butterflies and great trees like no others in the world!

This creates a conflict between the amount of land left natural for the environment and the amount of land altered for businesses, as wetlands are filled for mosquito control and gravel is added for parking pods. Trees are cut for additional housing, restaurants and even swimming pools, and shrubbery is cut down to remove hiding places for robbers. All of that is habitat removed. Systems are broken and disrupted. Water is rushed quickly out to sea as wetlands shrink and wells run dry and still others would seek to make money selling bottled water.

Florida used to be a beautiful sub-tropical coastal paradise too. It got developed. Environmental enforcement is always underfunded and responded only to complaints after the damage was done and after enough people were living in the area to notice and complain about their neighbors. Developers were allowed to pay triple for after-the-fact permits.

Beautiful, sacred old wetlands forests were replaced with plantings of trees and engineered storm water systems and called “mitigation.” Beaches became private guarded, gated, sea walled and fenced off. Public beaches, fishing, boating . .. . all required permits and prohibited many things… Paradise truly lost!

That is why I am thrilled to see the Costa Rica government take serious enforcement to protect the unique habitats. This is not a popular view here in Puerto Viejo where demolition orders have been issued for structures built in the maritime exclusion zone in violation of law. The law was made thirty five years ago and it has real teeth… no after the fact permits, no “mitigation,” just bulldoze it and give the clean-up bill to the owner.

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