Community development or mega ports and cities. These are the two options that, according to the lawyer Wilmar Matarrita, are being weighed for the country’s coastal areas.
Matarrita, a Nicoya lawyer and one of the proposed Coastal Community Territory (TECOCOS) law’s proponents, believes that the Littoral Urban Zone law, approved by a majority in the Legislative Assembly on March 6, is contrary to the principles of the TECOCOS bill and that its implementation would benefit wealthy investors and mega developers.
The TECOCOS law seeks to preserve the way of life for more than 50,000 families that currently live in maritime zones, who could be evicted when the presidential moratorium ends on October 14 of this year.
The new Littoral Urban Zone Law looks to organize coastal zones, allowing for the areas with “high urban concentration” to be declared “littoral cities” in which land use would be regulated through the use of coastal zoning plans designed by their respective municipalities. Once the area has been classified as“littoral urban,” the corresponding municipality would put together the urban zoning plan.
“What they’re trying to do in those communities is create big coastal cities, which would mean good business for a small group of people, but it is not going to be the solution for the people who live [there], and it is going to result in a permanent evacuation and the destruction of their homes,” Matarrita explained.
For Matarrita, the Littoral City Law is going to benefit large corporations and their hopes to create a mega port on the Gulf of Nicoya. He says that the municipality of Puntarenas already has designs for the mega port.
“They want to develop this project across from the Costa de Pajaros (Bird Coast), from Playa Manzanillo to Chomes, which includes at least five coastal towns that would be transformed,” Matarrita emphasized.
“There is a group of politicians associated with very powerful international companies that want this project. The municipality of Puntarenas is very interested. For example, Carlos Ricardo Benavides, the current minister of the presidency, has wanted to promote this project since he was minister of tourism, and he has been very close to the corporate sector. The municipality of Puntarenas even has designs of how the mega port would look,” explained Matarrita.
The lawyer is certain that Chinese investors have an aggressive plan to build a mega port on the Gulf of Nicoya, due to the fact that conditions on the Costa de Pajaros would allow for boats with a large capacity to enter, which is not the case at the current port of Caldera in Puntarenas. “Logically, to stock the port, a big city is needed, with a lot of services, restaurants and hotels,” he said.
Matarrita estimated that some 15,000 traditional fishermen would disappear due to being displaced from their homes. They would become a source of inexpensive manual labor for the wealthy investors. “They tell the communities that there will be work; they are old communities where what the residents know is how to fish,” he said.
However, according to the representative who presented the bill, Carolina Delgado Ramirez, the new law seeks to create an alternative to indiscriminate evictions from the coastal zone.
Matarrita stated that once the TECOCOS bill is approved, communities will be able to choose between community or littoral city development. In addition, he suggested that with the change in government and congressmen, there will be an attempt to modify some of the articles of the current TECOCOS bill.
One of the changes will be to simplify processes for people to be able to complain about the fees charged for their property; there will now be four instead of 17 processes to be able to do so. In addition, he mentioned that President-elect Luis Guillermo Solis had supported the proposed TECOCOS law during his campaign and expressed the hope of having it signed into law by this July 25. However, he did not dismiss plans for a pacific protest by representatives of coastal communities.
“We have the goal to have the decree signed in Nicoya’s park next July 25. We have been fighting for this for almost six years. This July 25th, there will be a protest here in Nicoya by the coastal communities and other parts of Guanacaste,” he concluded.