How is the Construction Law in Puerto Escondido?
Every place that has important natural wealth is of great interest to different people who do not always share the same visions. This is the case of Puerto Escondido, on the Mexican Pacific coast, in the southwest of the country, within the State of Oaxaca.
This paradise that remained “hidden” for many years, today receives a lot of attention from big businessmen who are beginning to see its economic and touristic potential. Originally, this small town was mostly attractive to the surfing community, as the famous Mexican pipeline is located here. The third largest wave in the world, after Nazareth (Portugal) and Maui (Hawaii), is at Zicatela beach in Puerto Escondido. In summer, it can reach up to 15 meters.
The tourists that commonly visited the coasts of Oaxaca were mostly surfers, and people related to this sport. However, due to various reasons, Puerto Escondido has ceased to be a surfer’s only paradise and has become an attraction for different styles of tourists and travelers. If you know Puerto, you will be able to understand why.
The variety of its beaches, the abundance of its nature, the incredible fauna that inhabits it and it’s good vibes make this coast an attractive place to enjoy vacations or make a change of life. This increase in tourism and visitors arriving in Puerto Escondido brought with it large businessmen and real estate groups that began to see opportunities for tourism investment, associated with large construction developments.
This interest of investors conflicted with the interests of the local inhabitants.
The Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection, in its article 28, stipulates that: “The environmental impact assessment is the procedure through which the Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) establishes the conditions to which it will be subject. the performance of works and activities that may cause ecological imbalance or exceed the limits and conditions established in the applicable provisions to protect the environment and preserve and restore ecosystems, in order to avoid or minimize their negative effects on the environment.”
For this reason, all constructions must present an Environmental Impact Study for authorization. This point, in Puerto Escondido, has generated a lot of contradiction. Since, the natural wealth and the quality of its waves are the main attractions of this coast. If any of these factors is conditioned by the constructions, that translates into a conflict in the community.
Being divided into two municipalities, the resolution of this type of conflict becomes more complex. While the Municipality of Santa María de Colotepec is governed by uses and customs, the Municipality of San Pedro Mixtepec is governed by political parties. Each side has its history in terms of construction. In order to reach consent, several years ago an agreement was stipulated through an assembly of settlers: only 2 levels would be built, plus another palapa level. This pact was respected by the local people for many years.
The foundations of this agreement are that, with this maximum height, the quality of the wave would not be affected and the constructions would not have a negative impact on the conservation of the local ecosystem. It should be noted that most of Puerto Escondido’s economy depends on surfing and its natural wealth.
The agreement established between the municipalities in that assembly has gradually been lost due to fast growing tourism and the displacement of local communities.
In the months that have gone by in 2022, at least 3 real estate developments have been suspended that, according to the community, did not respect this agreement and became a threat to the quality of the wave and the conservation of local ecosystems.
Examples of this are: the Oxean case with the intention of building 80 luxury apartments on Bacocho beach. Beach that is essential for the conservation of sea turtles. Especially, 2 types of turtles that are in danger of extinction and that spawn and are born on this beach every year. The construction of this building would seriously affect the conversation of these species of turtles.
Locals, visitors, foreigners living in Puerto Escondido and several people from the community have organized to protest, in a peaceful way, against Oxean and this type of construction. After several instances of debate, the Secreatary of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), has decided to suspend the construction because the delivery of the environmental impact report was not fulfilled as stipulated by the Law, in its article 28.
Recently, construction on Punta de Zicatela, next to the famous El Bicho beach club, has also been suspended for the same reason.
In summary, the construction law in Puerto Escondido is governed by the need to generate an environmental impact that is endorsed by Semarnat. But, in addition, because it is an exclusive surf spot with a privileged and world-renowned wave, its municipalities have agreed that the buildings should not exceed 2 levels plus a palapa level, without exception.
The importance of respecting these agreements lies in the continuity of Puerto Escondido as a paradise on the Oaxacan coast.