Nicoya: MINAE halts work that neighbors denounced for environmental damage on the Chipanzo river

Esta publicación también está disponible en: Español
Translator: Arianna Hernández

The Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) halted a construction on the banks of the Chipanzo river, between the Cananga and Chorotega neighborhoods in the center of the canton of Nicoya.

The institution decided to inspect the work after complaints from some people in the community who suspected that the work was causing environmental damage. At the site, they realized that the work began with expired permits issued by the Municipality of Nicoya and Water Management.

One of the neighbors, Ronald Soto, recorded a video documenting possible damage to the river caused by cutting down trees, moving earth and invading the riverbed.

The director of the Tempisque Conservation Area (Spanish acronym: ACT) from MINAE, Nelson Marin, confirmed that the institution filed a complaint for invasion of the river’s protected area.

Now Water Management is responsible for investigating whether [those in charge of the project] complied with what was stipulated in the building permit,” explained Marin.

The work consisted of installing a retaining wall (gabions made from stones and wire mesh) on the left side of the river. Neighbors observed that part of the material was thrown into the river.

Now, the authorities will investigate possible environmental damage. In addition, Water Management gave those responsible for the project one month to remove the gabions and leave the riverbed free of construction materials, according to a notification from the institution issued on January 10.

Expired Permits

MINAE approved the construction authorization in January of 2020 and it was valid for two years, according to resolution DA-0013-2020.

The municipality issued the building permit in July of 2021 and it was valid for six months, according to the coordinator of the Department of Construction Control and Public Works, Cesar Espinoza.

The Voice contacted the person in charge of the project, William Araya, who admitted that they didn’t verify the validity of the permits.

“This construction had all the permits. What happened is that one of the permits expired, I didn’t pay attention and we started the work without realizing that they had expired,” said Araya.

“We’re already processing the permit again… My medium-term plan is to build a house there… and I need to make sure that the river isn’t going to affect it in the future,” he indicated, adding that the gabions are necessary so that the riverbed doesn’t wear away the lot.

Cutting Down Trees Without Permission

The neighbor who complained about it on social networks, Ronald Soto, told The Voice that on Wednesday, January 5, he saw machinery cutting down trees in the riverbed. He estimates that they cut down three trees.

From my house, I saw how they cut down trees… For as long as I can remember, howler monkeys have been seen in these trees. In this part, their path was cut off and these days, I haven’t heard them again,” he lamented.

When consulted by The Voice, the worksite’s owner said that he only cut down one mango tree. “That was what was removed,” Araya said. However, none of the permits included cutting trees, as confirmed by the mayor’s office and the ACT’s director.