New Costa Maya Ecological Assessment Underway -
Officials Visit San Pedro


Dr. Francisco Rosado May of the University of Quintana Roo, Mexico and his assistant visited San Pedro for two days last week to familiarize themselves with Ambergris Caye and its tourism Industry. Ambergris Caye is of special interest to Dr. May as it neighbors the coastal village of X'Calak, Mexico and the area designated for development know as "Costa Maya".

May explained to the San Pedro town board and The San Pedro Sun that he and his staff are completing an Ecological Assessment of the entire area - from Punta Herrera to X'Calak. He said that the Government of Mexico requires the assessment be completed prior to any project being considered. Upon completion of the assessment, any project submitted by a developer will be approved if it meets the guidelines set out by government for development in the area. The developer is not required to perform an ecological evaluation.

The area known as Costa Maya is 140 km in length and encompasses an area with three villages, Punta Herrero with a population of 100; Majagual about 300 people and X'Calak with approximately 230 persons and is the most developed area for tourism with about 10 cabaņas. Before the assessment was undertaken, the Koll Corporation had proposed to the government of Mexico that three major centers for large scale tourism be built. Their proposal is no longer under consideration.

Based on a review of Federal and local government policies on tourism development, and talks with the local residents the general opinion is that all want to see low impact, sustainable development take place. "Micro-economics more than Macro-economics are slated for the area," May said.

As to the infrastructure necessary for development, the Government of Mexico will invest in basic services - power, roads, airports (if they are needed and justified) water and communications. Then the land owners can have agreements with larger companies to develop, or lease their land, or get loans from the government and develop individually. Some smaller land owners have expressed the fear that they are not large enough to be able to develop and benefit. A plan is being formulated for cooperative development for several small land owners, a land pool.

When asked about how Ambergris Caye fits into the Mexican development scheme, May said that 2,000,000 tourists visit Cancun and many are looking for a way to visit San Pedro. "Costa Maya has to develop that, get information to visitors. There is a problem now, no customs or immigration. This must be developed on both sides." He said the army has an airstrip at X'Calak and has indicated that it could be shared for tourism. "A bridge and highway are out of the question. Neither fits the concept of Costa Maya or Bacalar Chico. These are reserve areas set aside not to be developed." In addition, the Chinchorro reef area was recently declared a Biosphere Reserve and will be a major attraction for diving and snorkeling.

The staff of eight persons and twenty students are 60 to 70 percent done with gathering base information - flora/fauna/social - and in January and February will collate the information and complete the report. Development and building could begin in 1997.




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