Saving the Manialtepec Mangroves: the Fight Continues
Many people ask, "What’s happening with the deforestation of the mangroves in the Manialtepec Lagoon?" (See ¡Viva Puerto! 4, Snowbirds vs. Snowbirds) It has been over three months since the communities located on the banks of the lagoon registered their complaints about the unlawful cutting of the mangrove forest for the construction of a raised road (causeway) measuring approximately 80 meters long and 4 meters wide in El Palmarito on the southeast end of the lagoon, and there has been no word of any results. Naturally, the assumption has been that the protestors had been bought off. This is assuredly not the case.
While it is true that the Dept. of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the Federal Prosecutor for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) had intervened by ordering the closure of this project, they have taken no action against the party or parties who violated their seals, even though it is a federal offense to do so.
The question is: What use are laws like the Wildlife Protection Act of February 1, 2007 which specifically prohibits the cutting down of mangroves and adding landfill for tourism projects or any other reason?
As a representative of Las Negras, I went to Oaxaca on January 18 with other concerned citizens to find out how the case was progressing with both SEMARNAT and PROFEPA. What was our surprise when we discovered that the state office of PROFEPA could not locate the file! Undeterred, we spent half the day in the complaints department of PROFEPA while they searched through stacks of paperwork and finally turned up the Manialtepec file. Even then, we could not learn anything about what actions had been taken on our case as it was all confidential.
Such is the nature of the bureaucracy that even in a well-documented case which has received ample attention in the print, electronic and broadcast media, new inspections and the integration of complaints are required before the case may proceed along legal channels. We have stated many times that we are not opposed to tourist development as a source of new jobs, but not at the cost of the inheritance of future generations. We need orderly projects that are designed to preserve the natural environment.
This is the heritage we are going to leave our children, and we want to preserve this ecosystem for the thousands of birds which migrate to the lagoon in search of refuge, and for the fish they eat, and for the fishermen whose livelihoods depend on it. We will continue firm in our oppositon to the authorizing of permits by SEMARNAT and PROFEPA to complete the causeway.
We demand the removal of the landfill that was brought in and the immediate reforestation of the zone. This cannot be done by our citizens and those of nearby communities without the approval of PROFEPA, which is requiring that the road be left intact until the case is presented to the appropriate judicial authorities.
We have also submitted a written request to the PROFEPA State Delegate asking her to facilitate the processing of the pertinent documents so that the rubble used for this causeway can be removed. If this landfill is not removed soon, the life of the mangroves in this zone is endangered.
We know that there is no financial reward or other compensation that can restore the damage which has already been done to the flora and fauna of the lagoon, and we will never consider making a deal to allow this road to stand. On the contrary, we will continue to fight for the quick restoration of the wetlands by actively pursuing all the legal avenues available to us at the state and federal level.
Editor’s note: This is a slightly abridged translation of the accompanying Spanish article.*The author is the Agente Rural (mayor) of Las Negras, San Pedro Mixtepec.