Invasions of mangroves mainly are to create agricultural land

The nation’s environmental police are cracking down hard on invasions of the Puntarenas mangrove protected areas, and this time those facing charges are not foreign developers.

All the cases opened by the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo appear to involve farmers who have moved into the mangroves, destroyed the plants there and put in crops.

Of particular concern, said the Tribunal in a statement Tuesday, is what is called Parcel 19. This is about 100 hectares in which the director of Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación has been ordered to immediately destroy the crops that are growing there. The area is about 247 acres. The area is in Pitahaya de Puntarenas, near the mouth of the Río Aranjuez.

In all, the Tribunal said it has 28 open cases involving invasion of the mangrove.

The Área Silvestre Protegida de Manglar de Puntarenas contains some 5,173 hectares with about 3,678 hectares in mangroves. The

This corn patch is on former mangrove land, as is this shack, the Tribunal said.

This corn patch is on former mangrove land, as is this shack, the Tribunal said.

Tribunal points out that about 95 percent of the creatures in the Gulf of Nicoya depend on mangroves for one reason or another. Many fish species spend their youth hiding for protection in the submerged roots of plants in the mangroves.

The Tribunal estimates that about 400 hectares have been lost to invasion, mostly by farmers. However, there are some squatters, too.

The Tribunal has given the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación a month to take action to recover the mangroves. Photos released by the Tribunal show corn and other crops growing in what once was mangrove. There also is sugar cane, injuries by heavy machinery and burning.

Cases of landowners who have invaded the mangroves will be presented to prosecutors, said José Lino Chaves, president of the Tribunal Ambiental.

The bulk of the area where the mangroves have been invaded are along the Ríos Naranjo, Aranjuez, Ciruelas and Seco, the Tribunal said.

Mangroves are considered to be national heritage the same way that national parks and reserves are. The Tribunal has been documenting the devastation for the last four years.

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