Fire at Holbox to be investigated, prompting possible ban on development

Government agency to request ban on land use change for 20-year period; only one point of fire remains, down from total of 10.

Courtesy of PROFEPA
English 20/09/2016 15:23 Adriana Varillas / corresponsal Actualizada 15:29
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Cancún. — After confirming that the fire that has burned through 35 hectares of lowland rainforest and wetlands in Holbox Island was intentional, the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP) will make a formal request to protect the area from any changes in land use for a period of 20 years to ensure that no building permits are granted.

The commission's regional director for the Yucatán Peninsula, Ricardo Gómez Lozano, said that once the fire is contained and after the corresponding investigation and assessment have concluded, they will know for certain if the fire was intentional. If so, the commission will make the request to ban land use change in accordance with the General Sustainable Development Act.

In an interview with EL UNIVERSAL, Gómez Lozano said that the Ministry of the Navy conducted a helicopter survey in which they confirmed only one point of fire remaining, down from 10 that were actively burning on the island this past Saturday. Thanks to the efforts of personnel, firefighters and volunteers, the points of fire were reduced to one by Monday and the fire is expected to be completely contained by Tuesday or Wednesday.

“We initially estimated that 30 hectares were affected by the fire. However, throughout the course of the day we've increased our estimate to 35 hectares. These are preliminary figures of course because we still have to conduct a more precise survey of the damage. The affected area consists of lowland rainforest, wildlife and plants protected by Official Mexican Standard 059,” said Gómez Lozano.

The affected area is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, but it has not been protected from changes in land use by the Nature Reserve Management Program for over 20 years now.

Gómez Lozano reiterated the he is working on having this protection instrument granted by the end of this year to determine what activities can and cannot be carried out on the island.

After the fire has been completely contained, Gómez Lozano says that “the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection will evaluate the extent of the damage and establish the cause of the fire. We believe that no land use change should be granted for at least 20 years in a forest that has suffered from a fire of this magnitude.”

In Quintana Roo there are currently two nature reserves in Mahahual and one in Bacalar and Solidaridad each where a total of 8,000 hectares have been destroyed and that are currently protected from any changes in land use for a period of 20 years by the State Forestry Commission.

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Holbox Cancún Yucatán
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