Proposal Would Convert Costa Rican Arenal Reservoir into an Engine for Sustainable Economic Reactivation

    Taking advantage of the enormous tourist potential and natural beauty in the area

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    Driven by the need to take advantage of the enormous tourist potential and natural beauty in the area, the Arenal Reservoir Work Table proposes to turn the Arenal Reservoir into the engine for economic reactivation and sustainable tourism in the region.

    As a result of the dialogue held last October and November and in order to address the concerns expressed by four municipalities (Tilarán, Cañas, San Ramón and San Carlos), the First Lady and coordinator of the Chorotega Region, Claudia Dobles, announced the establishment of an institutional commission to generate a bill to create a special regime area for tourist use around the Arenal reservoir. In this way, the 4 cantons would benefit and even Monteverde.

    Juan Pablo Barquero, mayor of Tilarán, reaffirmed his interest in this work that is being carried out for the benefit of the cantons around the Arenal reservoir. “The priority is to see how the economy in tourism around the Arenal reservoir is boosted, how the legislation is oriented well to be clear about the competent authorities, what is the responsibility of each one in terms of permits and of the authorizations, what is the competence of each one and what do we have to authorize each of the different authorities”, he said.

    What happens around the Arenal reservoir?

    ICE put the Arenal Hydroelectric Plant into operation in December 1979, after creating an artificial reservoir, for which the towns of Arenal and Tronadora had to be relocated. The 87-square-kilometer reservoir is Costa Rica’s main source of energy and irrigation: it stores water during the rainy season for use in electricity production; This water is later used in the Arenal-Tempisque Irrigation System for agricultural production. The Arenal Hydroelectric Complex also includes the Dengo (1982) and Sandillal (1992) plants.

    As stipulated by article 33 of the Forestry Law (No. 7575), the 50 meters around an artificial reservoir built by the State like this one are protected areas. That is to say, in that space the activities that are carried out in order to take care of the water must be taken care of.

    More than four decades later, it is undeniable that the landscape and activities around the site attract national and foreign tourism. However, development on its coasts has not been ordered nor has it responded to a plan, details Franklin Paniagua, MINAE’s vice minister of the environment.

    Guiding tourism development

    “We want to guide tourism development in the reservoir area to achieve its management in a sustainable way and thinking in the long term. These are the motivations for seeking a regulation that harmonizes the different elements of the landscape and the history that this landscape has”, explained Paniagua.

    The work route in the region includes changes in the municipal regulatory plans. The Municipality of Tilarán is currently working on this issue; the regulation of the uses around the reservoir, which is a task of the Arenal Tempisque Conservation Area, and the bill, which will be built in conjunction with the municipalities and communities. In order to speed up the work on this proposal, the institutional committee will meet every 15 days.
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