On June 9, Frente Amplio party legislators presented a bill (23.166) intended to guarantee that infrastructure is placed for passageways for animals at “any fragile point” where they cross. The bill would add a new article to the Organic Environment Law.
In this way, new buildings must have safe passageways for wildlife in cases indicated by the Environmental Technical Secretary (SETENA for the Spanish acronym). Existing works would have to implement them when necessary.
The objective is to reduce animal deaths due to accidents related to construction development in areas with the highest population of wild animals. Urban growth in tourist areas of Guanacaste is one of the main threats to fauna.
International Animal Rescue (IAR Costa Rica) in Nosara treats at least 100 electrocuted monkeys every year. As of May of this year, they had documented 67 incidents related to electrocutions. The IAR also deals with cases of animals that have been run over or attacked by domestic pets.
The bill is supported by organizations such as Salvemonos (Save the Monkeys) Costa Rica, a project dedicated to preventing and investigating accidents of this type.
That same organization detected that there is a relationship between wildlife accidents (electrocutions, being run over or colliding with buildings) and construction growth that doesn’t take into account measures to protect the biodiversity that lives in those areas. Several of their investigations agree that the more buildings there are in coastal areas, the more incidents detected by organizations with which they have relationships. The IAR also identified a similar trend.
The bill, whose main signatory is legislator Ariel Robles, takes into consideration that the National Environmental Technical Secretary (SETENA) and the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC for the Spanish acronym) will determine the areas that need these regulations. Both institutions work with organizations like Salvemonos and the IAR.
The Costa Rican Electrical Institute (ICE) and the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) have regulations that specify how to install safe electrical systems for biodiversity, but most builders don’t follow the instructions. This was stated by the IAR project coordinator, James Francisco Acosta.
Ines Azofeifa Rojas, the researcher for the SalveMonos foundation in Playa Hermosa, also reported that there is no institution at this time that requires the placement of spaces for animals to move through new constructions.
For example, although ICE is willing to cut down trees near electrical wiring to avoid exposed currents, if the tree trunk is on private property, they need authorization from the owner or have to request a technical analysis to do it. In other words, if the residents of these areas don’t cooperate with the institutions, it’s harder to prevent fauna accidents from happening.
The IAR rescue center in Nosara has invested more than $14,000 since 2018 in insulating public and private wiring that is potentially dangerous for the district’s fauna. With the large growth in construction, however, they feel that they’re constantly in a “race against death” that’s hard for them to win.
Construction in places like Nosara is even more dangerous now since many of the new buildings are luxury and require a higher amount of voltage. Faced with the need to increase the voltage in the network of the town’s main lines, the insulators are less effective. In areas such as Guiones and Pelada, ICE had to increase from 2,400 volts to 19,900 or 34,400 volts. That level of energy tends to melt the protection system installed by IAR or ICE itself.
Azofeifa explained that accidents don’t just happen due to the lack of electrical insulation along the wiring. The buildings in and of themselves divide ecosystems and eliminate routes used by animals to move around. This forces them to use alternate paths, which sometimes end up being power lines or the main road.