Nicoya – The purchase of a property known as Hacienda Chorotega by the cement company, Holcim, has caused great concern among Corral de Piedra residents in Nicoya. This is because a large part of the wetland and mountain of the same name are located within this property.
The Corral de Piedra wetland is a freshwater lake that receives water from the Tempisque River, which connects Palo Verde and Barra Honda National Parks, making it an important habitat for migratory and waterbirds, and for a wide variety of mammals and reptiles.
Adriana González, Communications Officer for Holcim, explained that they are aware of the area's ecological importance, stating that the company has been working on the preliminary stage of the environmental studies for over a year.
"We know how important the wetland is, as a Ramsar Site, and because of the large number of flora and fauna in it. Holcim is conducting a comprehensive management plan to ensure the protection of its environmental resources," she said.
Gonzalez mentioned that the company's plans in the area do not include building a cement production plant, but are focused instead on limestone extraction from the Cerro Corral de Piedra, as long as the environmental assessment proves to be feasible.
Jorge Gamboa, Manager of the Wetlands Department for the National Conservation Areas System (Área de Humedales del Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación, SINAC) and the Ramsar Administrative Authority, explained that any project that involves or is located within its ecological resource parameters, in this case a wetland, must be evaluated to determine its environmental feasibility.
"Any activity must first have an environmental impact study in order to give sustainable use to the activities that will be conducted on the property," he said.
The Community Against the Project
In early February legislator Claudio Monge, of the Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC) and chairman of the Environmental Commission, visited Corral de Piedra and spoke with local residents, who expressed their opposition to any project that poses a threat to both the mountain and the wetland.
"The entire community has joined forces against these plans, in spite of having been offered alleged progress and development with such projects," he affirmed.
Moreover, Gonzalez mentioned that if the project becomes a reality, Holcim will provide a comprehensive management for the wetlands, implementing various activities such as water resource management, research and education and tourism in order to create employment opportunities for those who live in the area.
Recently the Facebook page, Salvemos el Cerro de Corral de Piedra (Save the Corral de Piedra Mountain) was created, in order to show people's opposition to this site becoming the next "Crucitas".
Wetlands in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica there are about 350 wetlands that cover approximately 7% of the country; eleven have been identified as "Ramsar Sites."
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
It is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and the rational use of wetlands. The Convention's member countries include all geographic regions of the world. Costa Rica joined the Ramsar Convention in April 1991.
What is a Ramsar Site?
Ramsar Sites are included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance that was established by the Convention. To be included as a Ramsar Site, a wetland must meet the following strict criteria: it must be a representative, rare and/or unique site, or a wetland of particular importance for biodiversity and conservation.
Source: Compiled by Jorge Gamboa Elizondo, National Wetlands Program