The mayor of the municipality of Nandayure, Giovanni Jiménez, authorized street repairs that ended up filling part of a mangrove and estuary in Puerto Coyote with sand – even though he says he never authorized damaging the ecosystem.
A group of local residents filed a complaint, and the National System of Areas of Conservation (SINAC) confirmed that there was an affected area. Now the damage is being investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office.
According to an official report presented by the SINAC to the Public Ministry (attached to this article), it was confirmed that the mangrove and estuary in Puerto Coyote were filled with material that was extracted from the Río Millan riverbed without the necessary permits from the Geological Management Department of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE).
“The filled areas in the mangrove and estuary are part of the State’s natural heritage. The filling was done without permission from the State’s Forestry Administration nor from any other related institution,” says the document.
The director of the SINAC’s Tempisque Conservation Area, Nelson Marín, said that during this week there will be a final evaluation of the extent of environmental damage caused. However, a judge will determine who is responsible and what should be done to mitigate the damage.
“All of this is under investigation. The site was visited and there is an affected area, but we don’t know the extent of the damage. A judge will have to determine the consequences,” said Marín.
According to the Ramsar Convention, which fights for the conservation and rational use of wetlands around the world, mangroves are a food source for thousands of species. They also have vital functions related to the regulation of freshwater, nutrients, and the entrance of sediment to the coast.
It is estimated that 75% of the world’s mangroves have been destroyed, and an even higher percent are at risk of disappearing.
Just one road
The mayor of Nandayure told The Voice of Guanacaste that he only authorized repairs on the road that ends at the estuary in Puerto Coyote. He says he does not know about the affected area, nor that a mangrove exists there.
“I don’t know anything about those complaints. I haven’t heard about them. So they’re going to file a complaint for fixing a municipal road, which is our job?” said the mayor.
According to the testimony, this photograph illustrates the sand and gravel that was deposited in the Puerto Coyote estuary.
The repairs, according to Jiménez, came about as a response to an explicit request from local lifeguards who needed improved access to their workplace in order to better control activities in the area.
The SINAC’s complaint also names Manuel Silva Valerio, the head of the Coast Guard station in Puerto Coyote de Nandayure, as the person allegedly responsible for the damage. This newspaper tried to locate him before going to press, but it was not possible to contact him.
How did the work that affected the mangrove happen if there were no permits issued? It seems to be a problem of internal communication among municipal departments.
The director of Environmental Management at the Municipality of Nandayure, Douglas Arauz, said that the mayor never asked him for technical advice from his department to see if the project was viable from an environmental perspective in the area around the estuary.
“The mayor’s office left out environmental studies. What should have happened was for them to tell us about the project and ask the SINAC for an evaluation beforehand. Then engineering would make the designs. But it wasn’t that way. In fact, I was on vacation when this work took place,” said Arauz.
The director of the Technical Unit of Roadway Management, David Camacho, said that he also did not know the work was taking place and that his department never authorized that work.
This isolation among departments was signaled by the mayor of Nandayure as a “persecution against me.”
For Jiménez, there are positions within the municipality that want to affect his job.
“You know what’s going on? [Municipal employees] don’t like me. Those are the ones causing trouble. It wouldn’t surprise me that someone else did the damage and they’re fingering me,” said the mayor.
Arauz said there was no plot against his boss, but he did confirm that municipal relations are at a tense point.
“We’re tired of being at the mayor’s whim. The departments here aren’t supported,” he added.