Nature Conservation in Costa Rica May be in Danger

One of the many natural sites in Costa Rica

In recent days, the Ecological Federation (FECON) formally communicated to the Minister of the Environment and the General Secretariat of SETENA, its rejection to the proposed regulatory reform of the Regulation on Environmental Assessment, Control and Monitoring (RECSA).
For the Ecological Federation, RECSA’s approaches are environmentally regressive. “The proposed text ends up contradicting or omitting the principles of the Organic Environmental Law 7554”.
In this regard, it does not advance in social participation, which prevents from the start an adequate management of socio-environmental conflicts, and the effect of gaps or outdated procedures that contradict the spirit of environmental laws.
Among other aspects indicated by FECON lacking in this propositions are:

  • Human activities do not occur in isolation and it is required to establish means of control of the carrying capacity in a territory. It also eliminates Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), leaving a gap in assessment with the land-use planning approach.
  • Another element is Environmental Audits, where it is intended that the auditee pay the Environmental Consultants that would evaluate them, excluding institutions and universities as collaborators in audits.
  • In an unprecedented way, it excludes from the Environmental Impact Assessment agricultural activities such as livestock and agriculture. It is worth mentioning that in the first version that was known in committee, the thresholds for livestock and agriculture showed serious irregularities. Now it is unthinkable to exclude them due to their high environmental impact.
  • RECSA does not rely on environmental criteria to define impact thresholds (low, medium, high), which are key to defining the evaluation route for each type of activity.
  • Likewise, RECSA states that water concessions are trying to pass themselves off as having a low environmental impact in all cases, when we know that it is one of the fields that generates the most conflict. In this way, an obsolete water management system is being legitimized and must be improved to prevent conflicts.
    The Ecological Federation recommended to the Minister of the Environment and to the presidency of the SETENA Commission, to reject the proposal of the new Regulation, due to its multiple regressions and inconsistencies and because it lacks substantial progress in the regulation of the Environmental Impact Assessment in the country.
    Experts speak out:
    “The regulation was made by the business sector.” The archaeologist and expert in environmental evaluation, Ifigenia Quintanilla, has the representation of the Ecological Federation before the Commission, and denounces a series of very serious points regarding the reform of the environmental evaluation system in SETENA.
    Precisely, in January of this year the Minister of Environment and Energy convened a Mixed Commission to review the regulations for environmental impact assessment within the National Environmental Technical Secretariat. Said instance has been in session for the last six months. The Mixed Commission is made up of representatives of the government, business chambers, public universities, independent consultants and environmental organizations.
    Quintanilla noted that this regulation was made by the business sector. “They intend to be judge and party to the environmental assessment and to put back thirty years of environmental regulation in Costa Rica.” Finally, Quintanilla added that the regulation has multiple aspects that are not good, one of the most worrying is that large agricultural plantations (such as the piñeras) would be outside the new environmental evaluation regulation.
    As is known, there are pressures on the part of the agribusiness sector for them to have their own project evaluation methodology, but to date the Mixed Commission itself is unaware of the existence or progress of any specific proposal in this regard, “quite the contrary, there would be a very dangerous vacuum with the approval of this new regulation.”
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