sábado, mayo 13, 2006

Help & Hope on the Horizon

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico The daily despair of seeing our once beautiful and pristine bay fouled by the discharges of the inadequate water treatment plants and runoff from denuded hillsides has received a slight reprieve in the form of renewed and growing support among local businesses and professionals aligning themselves with the causes of the environmentalists and locals who have been struggling for years against the corrupt and inept political machinery that has allowed 45 squatter communities along with several luxury tourist developments of dubious origin and benefit to occupy and deforest our bay's hillsides and degrade our cherished ecological zones. Environmentalists, representatives of the Colleges of Architects and Engineers, legal consultants for the Cámara Nacional de Comercio (Canaco - the National Chamber of Commerce), and 3 local town councilpersons have uncovered serious legal defects in the recently approved zoning changes made to the Plan Director de Desarrollo Urbano (urban development master plan). The zoning changes would permit the regularización of the 45 squatter communities that have sprouted up like mushrooms over the past 15 years, thanks to unscrupulous political parties promising cheap land in exchange for votes. The zoning changes would also allow the development of megaprojects such as Cerro del Vigía on the eastern side of the bay and a similar project, Montecristo, on the western side of the bay. Upon scrutinizing the legal document changing the zoning for these areas it was discovered that it contains such serious irregularities as to render the document illegal and unconstitutional. For starters, it was pointed out that modifications to the Plan Director de Desarrollo Urbano are supposedly only permitted once every three years. Since it was last modified in 2004 by the previous municipal administration, the current document violates the law. But even more alarming is that the document supposedly authorizing the zoning changes is dated September 30, 2005 and signed by the current mayor Silvano Blanco. The problem is that Silvano Blanco was NOT sworn in as the mayor at that time, he was simply the mayor-elect and thus did not have the competent authority required. Legal consultants also mentioned that other necessary signatures required by law were also missing from the document even though it has already been published in the official State Gazette, one of the requirements for implementing any new or modified law. So since the state government supposedly approved the document, suggesting they actually reviewed and scrutinized it (though in practice they rarely ever read or study such documents), it would appear that there has been connivance between at least two levels of government (both coincidentally governed by the same political party) to implement an unconstitutional zoning change that would reap huge political (if not also economical) benefits for the party in power during the upcoming federal and state elections. Personally, I am encouraged and gladdened by this recent development. However, I have no illusions that the political party in power at both the state and municipal levels will do everything they can to try to stifle the opposition and to conceal their allegedly illegal actions as they have done in other similar circumstances. Now it is up to us, the citizens, to support this initiative to reestablish and protect our ecological zones. Obviously the city must grow to accommodate its growing population, but it makes inherently more sense for the city planners to plan its growth horizontally towards Pantla and Coacoyul, not vertically towards our hilltops and ecological zones where the cost of providing services with already insufficient resources will not only cancel out the possibility of providing improved municipal services for the taxpayers and long-established businesses and residents, but such horizontal growth will continue contributing to the overall deterioration of the environment, including the bay, which is our principal tourist attraction, thus denying future generations a secure and healthy environmental heritage and jeapordizing our principal economic activity.

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