Development on the Caribbean pits turtles against projects

The apparent rejection of a hotel-marina project on the Caribbean coast would seem to be the overture to eight more battles that will pit as many development projects against the turtles that nest on the Moín beach.

Environmentalists appear to be pleased that the Procuraduría, the nation’s lawyer, has supported the annulment of an environmental approval for Moín Resort and Marina, S.A.,. And they list eight other projects they say will have an impact on turtles and the Río Moín and the  Cariari mangroves. Among these projects is a concession to a Dutch firm that plans to build a $1 billion container-handling facility.

Mauricio Álvarez Mora, a professor at the Universidad de Costa Rica, has outlined the projects and the possible negative effects. He also is president of  Federación Conservacionista de Costa Rica. He estimated that the projects total about $4.7 billion. They include state projects, too, such as modernizing the Moín port and the construction of a new petroleum refinery.

Álvarez also uses the name of Jairo Mora, the man who was murdered at Moín. He was a worker to protect turtles.

The  Moín Resort is directed by José Soler and his  Soler Pazos Group LLC. The project received environmental approval in October 2008 from the  Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental. But in 2012 the agency began to have second thoughts after the Contraloría General de la República asked about the mangroves. The concern was that the original approval did not consider the impact on the mangroves. The  Procuraduría finally gave its blessing on the extensive and complex procedure that went into voiding the permission.

Soler seeks to build on 208 acres with 8,200 feet of beachfront. The project Web site said 600 low-rise resort condos will be built along with 100 beach and waterfront villas and 110 waterfront estate homes. There are plans for a 500-slip marina for yachts up to 250 feet.  There also is space reserved for a luxury hotel, the Web site says.

The extensive development may seen out of place for the Limón areas, but the central government is seeking to boost the local economy there.

This also is the area where the Chinese National Petroleum Co. wants to partner with Costa Rica to build a large refinery. That project is not advancing well for other reasons, but environmentalists fear that the involvement by the Chinese will be a prelude to petroleum exploration in Costa Rica, said  Álvarez.

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