Coastal Zoning: The JICA Project
Read all about it ! The much celebrated JICA project is now in it’s final stages! So, what the heck is JICA? Well, for those of you that don’t already know, JICA is the acronym for the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The JICA project (funded by JICA) is essentially a “General Land Use Study” done in cooperation with ICT, the Costa Rican Tourist Institute, which assembled a team of international planners and environmentalists to carry out the study. In simple terms, the study represents long-term thinking about how, where, and what kind of development (both tourism and non-tourism) will take place over the coming years. Results of this study will be used to design a series of sustainable components regarding future development in this region. It is a first take on a master framework to guide future zoning and development. Eventually, what will manifest from this study is without a doubt the largest zoning proposal in the history of the country. It is designed to function at the national level and replace inconsistent or haphazard planning at the local level. It’s also supposed to create a clearer set of rules and to streamline bureaucracy, which in turn will theoretically raise investor confidence. Initially, there were nine study areas country-wide, but this was reduced throughout the course of the study to two main areas: the Golfo Dulce region, which JICA has denominated the Corcovado-Golfito Sector and the Guanacaste Sector. I had the pleasure of attending the meetings and reading the various versions of the study. My business is real estate and consulting so it is vital for me to be informed. I must say I was impressed by how comprehensive the study is and by the fact that the government invited international consultants, who in turn invited the communities to participate. Hats off to ICT! The JICA team of planners has published its final draft of the study, which was submitted to ICT this past December. It will now go through a final adjustment and approval process through Costa Rica’s governmental institutions and be legislated into law. Even though the study’s primary focus is development along the costal areas—or Maritime Zone—the study incorporates other major issues concerning community growth and social impact, environmental impact, infrastructure (roads, sewage, electricity and water), and both terrestrial and marine transportation routes to connect with targeted tourist areas and points such as the inner gulf and Caño Island.
The Cecropia Foundation of Puerto Jiménez, which has played a major role in the conservation movement on the Osa Peninsula, was invited to participate in the study. As one of the founders of Cecropia, I was very pleased to see the study place a large emphasis on the environment, stating that “the future of tourism in this area is directly tied to conservation itself.” JICA went on to declare that qualifying and instating the Osa Peninsula as a World Heritage Site would be the cornerstone of a successful world-scale model of conservation and sustainable development. It’s ironic that a team of international planners recommended what we already knew. . . that the Osa is, without a doubt, a very special place and worth protecting. Bravo !!
Some of the problems that the study did not take into account include solutions for the land tenure problems both inside and outside the Maritime Zone, forest reserves, IDA lands, etc. The town of Pto. Jiménez itself and its illegitimate status as an “urban area” was not even mentioned, despite the fact the town is targeted as a primary tourist center where future services in and along the waterfront will be located. . .woops. Being the gateway to the surrounding region—or “core zone”—the study recommends local town attractions such as a museum as well as cultural attractions, botanical gardens, and a training center for local citizens.
The priority areas are: Puerto Jiménez and Platanares / Cienega Beach; and the town of Golfito. These two areas are listed as primary tourist centers with infrastructure and services to support the secondary tourist centers, which include Sierpe, Drake Bay, Zancudo and Pavones. Limited tourism areas is the third type of area identified and include: Tortuga, Carate, Matapalo, Sombrero, Cañaza, Playa Blanca, Dos Brazos, Los Patos, Rancho Quemado, Rincon, Playa Saladero, Playa San Josecito and Playa Gallardo. Each area has recommended density levels and presupposes the creation of green zones, nature reserves, public areas, hotel areas, and transportation routes including The Osa Trail, a trans-peninsular foot path connecting small rustic lodging sites the length and breadth of the peninsula.
At the moment, there is no implementation schedule for the plan. Phase One is the completion and approval of the study. Rumors are that Phase Two will begin sometime in 2002 when we may see the beginning of some initial projects like infrastructure. So where will the money come for all of this? We assume some will come directly from ICT and some will come from other Costa Rican Institutions tied to loans from the world banking community. Maybe the Japanese themselves through ODA, the Overseas Development Agency. The study doesn’t say nor will ICT comment on where the funds are to derive.
One of the recommendations in the study is that key areas like Puerto Jiménez form a local association (see separate article) made up of different sectors to work in cooperation with government agencies to help set priorities and carry out the implementation of certain community projects... Hey let’s fix the road and build the wastewater treatment plant!
Making sense of all this gives most people a headache, including myself. Talking or hearing about long-term development here in the Osa sort of goes against the principal of what makes this place so special. I, too, get a little squeamish when I think about it, but I also understand that this place is special enough to not only be concerned, but to get involved. Development will come to this part of the world on its own, driven by the population explosion and by human nature itself. The idea is try and understand it and help in one form or another. Faced with unregulated or regulated development, I’ll choose the latter anytime so long as the goal includes a balanced and sustainable approach. The local economy will be driven by tourism growth and investment, which in turn will create jobs and opportunities for the People. The question is how can development take place where not only every citizen benefits, but where the environment is itself a primary beneficiary. It’s a big challenge but not an impossible one. If any of you would like to offer help or ideas, feel free to call or send an e-mail. Donations to the local development association or The Ceccropia Foundation are welcome. Contact my office (735-5626 firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will forward them on to the corresponding agency....
They say the only constant in life is change. It’s more of a matter of how much and at what pace, and to speculate on how realistic the study’s recommendations are is pure guesswork at this point. One thing for sure is that much of this futuristic plan will depend upon the will of the government and the People. Will there be opposition? Probably. Will it happen fast? Definitely not. However, it will no doubt at least accelerate to some extent the future path we are on here in the Osa. Let’s hope that the change is positive. . .for every citizen as well as for the environment.
Article courtesy of Jeff Lantz, Courtesy of El Sol de Osa The Osa Peninsula’s Newspaper