Thursday, February 4, 2016

Re: Devastation of mangrove in Cancun Mexico

January 28, 2016
Lic. Rafael Pacchiano Alamán
Secretario de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales
Blvd. Adolfo Ruiz Cortines # 4209
Col. Jardines en la Montaña, Deleg. Tlalpan
Distrito Federal CP. 14210, México

cc: Alejandro Del Mazo Maza
Comisionado Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas
Camino al Ajusco No. 200, Col. Jardines en la Montaña,
Deleg. Tlalpan, Distrito Federal CP. 14210, México

Mr. Secretary:

I am the founder and director of the Mangrove Action Project (MAP), an international nonprofit organization working to conserve and restore our planet’s beleagured mangrove forest wetlands. Mangroves are vital for so many reasons. Mangrove forests provide coastal communities with life-saving protection from tropical storms and sea level rise. They provide critical habitat for creatures as diverse as crocodiles and manatees. Mangroves are a vital ecosystem for as many as 75% of the world’s tropical and sub-tropical fish, with many species relying on these coastal forests to provide a safe haven for their offspring.

Mangroves are also very important buffers against sea level rise, coastal erosion and climate change, which I believe your government has taken a strong interest in combating as evidenced by Mexico’s active support of limiting carbon emissions during the Paris COP 21 talks. Since mangroves sequester and store more carbon than any other tree species (5 times more than tropical rainforests), and can store this for hundreds or even thousands of years in their soils, it is essential and timely to ensure full protection of existing mangroves around the world, including in your country, Mexico.

The sad truth is that over 50% of the Earth’s mangroves have already been lost (35% destroyed in only the last 30 years). And they continue to be destroyed at a rate of around 1% annually – 150,000 hectares a year. That is, in short, why the Mangrove Action Project exists and why we are writing to you today: To seek your support to help stop that destruction. However, we are shocked that your agency was complicit in the illicit destruction of a once healthy and productive mangrove forest at Malecon Tajamar on the Yucatan Peninsula!

The government institution you head is responsible for promoting the protection, restoration and conservation of ecosystems, natural resources, and environmental goods and services for Mexico, in order to facilitate their use and sustainable development. Yet your agency allowed FONATUR to wantonly destroy the mangroves of Malecon Tajamar at Cancun, Quintana Roo. And, it is for this very reason that we at MAP are now writing you.

It is tragic that an area of ​​approximately 58 hectares of mangroves in the area known as Malecon Tajamar were cleared and the wetlands filled. This action violated your own government’s stated commitment to protect these unique ecosystems, and in doing so fight climate change. It is obvious that destroying the mangroves at Malecon Tajamar runs completely against current international protocols, especially since the Paris COP 21 conference where Mexico pledged to do its utmost to reduce climate change. Ostensibly, Mexico is a strong supporter of United Nations climate mitigation programs, yet again, what your government has allowed there at Malecon Tajamar runs completely comntrary to this pledge.

Ironically, if you recall, COP 16 was held in Cancun in 2011, so one would assume that the mangroves there are particularly significant and truly representative of your nation’s supposedly strong commitment to conserving these vitally important wetlands. However, the surprise raid of the developer’s destruction crew in the dark of the early morning hours under complete police protection was indicative of a sadly compromised government stance, revealing once more the power of money above ethics.

MAPs stand in solidarity with those courageous people who had physically occupied the site at Malecon Tajamar for months in their brave attempt to halt the intended destruction. Though in the end FONATUR had its way in destroying the mangroves there, we are hopeful that your government will see the fault in allowing this loss, and move to halt further development there in order to at least complete an in-depth Environmental Impact Assessment, while in the meantime protecting the area from further abuse.

We urge Mexico to put habitat protection and climate change reduction above real estate development and short-term profits.

The Yucatan Peninsula and especially the coast of Quintana Roo has been ranked as one of the most vulnerable to rising average sea levels and increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes due to climate change. This is the time to be proactive in the protection of mangroves, which is not only the wiser action in itself, but is essential for Mexico’s own national security in nurturing those critical ecosystem services that mangroves provide.

Towards these ends we support the people of Mexico who are asking that you now
• create a revised resolution via an Environmental Impact Statement for this property development as it is clearly illegal, and for the damage already caused; demand the permanent suspension of the works, site rehabilitation and punishment of the authorities that have allowed this act. 
• revise procedures and policy instruments regarding current environmental issues that are not meeting your goals, and which have in fact proved to be complicit in the destruction of the natural heritage of the nation. 
For the Mangroves and Mangrove Communities,

Alfredo Quarto, , Executive Director
Mangrove Action Project

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