Environmental Rights and Guarantees for Costa Ricans

Environmental Rights and Guarantees for Costa Ricans

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By Dr. Gabriel Quesada A. *

It is essential to include in the Political Constitution a title of Environmental Rights and Guarantees that responds to the public interest and that gives a clear and concise response to free trade agreements. So that ecological rights are duly protected by the Amparo Resource and the Unconstitutionality Action, as fundamental rights that they are.

Costa Rica is a country of great ecological and human wealth due to its location and physical characteristics. Being located between two continental masses, the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere, the country has a rich biodiversity of continental and marine species, resident and migratory, as well as a large number of endemic species At the human level, the situation was no different. Costa Rica has been the southern border of Mesoamerica, like the northern border of South America. Different aboriginal groups inhabited our lands, enriching its cultural and ethnic diversity.

Scientifically it has been shown that the country has more than 5% of the planet's species, in a continental territory of 51,100 square kilometers, 0.1% of the earth's surface and a marine territory of more than 500,000 square kilometers. In such a small area there are approximately 12,000 species of plants that are divided into: 10,000 species of vascular plants and about 2,000 species of non-vascular plants. The number of animals is no less important, there are about 300,000 species of insects, 848 species of birds, 237 species of mammals, 218 species of reptiles, 143 species of amphibians, 130 species of continental fish and about 800 species of marine fish. in the Pacific and some 500 species of marine fish in the Caribbean.

This ecological and cultural wealth was always part of the political, economic and social development of aboriginal groups. His philosophy and vision of the cosmos and the world were based on natural phenomena.

It is from the arrival of the Spanish conqueror that a qualitative and quantitative transformation of the country's environmental and cultural patterns begins. First, for the interest of the Spanish monarchy to consolidate its economic and political power at the international level and second, to exploit the natural and human resources that would contribute to consolidating its empire. During the colony, the situation was not different since the management and exploitation patterns of resources similar to those of the conquest were maintained.

It is with the introduction of coffee that the country is consolidated as a Republic and a new stage in national history begins. The natural ecosystem is transformed into an agroecosystem, where species of trees of the Costa Rican flora are combined with coffee plants. The artificial forest was mainly composed of legumes that not only gave shade to the coffee tree, but also introduced nitrate to the soil, the product of bacterial transformation. A vegetative cover or mulch on the ground was also an important part in the formation of nutrients in the old coffee plantations. However, starting in the 1950s, traditional coffee agroecosystems were changed to plantations with little vegetation cover or plantations exposed to the sun. This change results in the introduction of agrochemicals, such as fertilizers and pesticides that have a negative impact on the environment due to their indiscriminate use. Another serious pollutant is the release of brushwood and honey into rivers and streams of the Central Valley, a product of coffee processing.

Banana activity was another factor that transformed the Costa Rican ecosystem. During the construction of the railroad to the Caribbean zone, thousands of hectares of humid tropical forest were granted to foreign companies for the exploitation of bananas. Years later the expansion increased to the Central and South Pacific area. At present, many of the old banana areas were abandoned due to depletion and accumulation of copper in the soil. The use of agrochemicals without adequate control and regulations produced the massive sterilization of six thousand banana workers in the Río Frío area, Heredia province. This case is being discussed today in a Federal Court in the state of Texas, United States. The workers and their lawyers collect large sums from the banana companies as compensation for the damage to their reproductive systems.

As a consequence, a group of Costa Ricans concerned about national ecosystems presented an unprecedented lawsuit before the International Water Tribunal in 1992. This court was sponsored by the government of the Netherlands, with the support of the European Union and the scientific community. international. The results of the trial were of great importance for Costa Rica, since the first ecological jurisprudence is established against a transnational banana company.

During the decade of the 50s, another activity no less harmful than bananas was introduced, extensive livestock farming. Extensive cattle ranching was responsible for the destruction of more than 60% of primary and secondary forest nationwide and a deforestation rate of 60,000 hectares per year. Extensive livestock farming is responsible for the erosion of millions of tons of productive soil and for the disappearance of the habitat of a large number of species of birds, insects and mammals. Extensive livestock farming also contributed to many farmers migrating from the countryside to the city in search of sources of work. The proliferation of satellite cities around the metropolitan area is growing and many families live in extreme poverty, with serious problems of crime, epidemiological and psychic.

Another serious problem is the contamination of surface and groundwater in the main hydrographic basins of the Central Valley. Thousands of metric tons of fecal matter, in addition to coffee residues, are discharged into these rivers without any treatment. Infectious-contagious diseases such as dengue, malaria, measles and cholera have recently proliferated, which could be related to water pollution. There is also no control over chemical compounds such as heavy metals, detergents, agrochemicals and other highly toxic compounds. It has been determined that the fecal and chemical wastes that are transported by the Grande de Tárcoles water network are deposited by marine currents in the Gulf of Nicoya.

Situation that has caused a decrease in fishing and a serious economic conflict for most of the fishermen in the Puntarenas area.

Thousands of metric tons of garbage are produced daily in the Central Valley. The problem is as serious as that the representatives of the Executive Power and the Municipalities have not given a scientific-technical answer to the administration and management of solid waste. Today there is a rejection on the part of the communities to accept the sanitary landfills in their communities due to the bad procedures used by the authorities and the particular interests that are behind this situation. In many cases, solid waste is thrown into rivers, lots and roads, producing a serious aesthetic, landscape and health impact.

The uncontrolled use of agrochemicals contributes to the contamination of other fishing areas in the country. Thus, a large number of coral reefs on the Caribbean coast have disappeared due to contamination of pesticides and pesticides used in banana plantations, destroying 75% of the coral reefs located south of the La Estrella River. As the reef has been eliminated, the ichthyofauna has decreased considerably and many fishermen in Cahuita, Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo have been harmed by the destruction of these marine ecosystems. In addition, the construction of the Limón pier altered the regime of marine currents, causing the erosion of the coastline and the sedimentation of particles in the coral colonies. Another factor that has altered the Caribbean area is the growth and disorderly construction of hotels and housing from Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo. Laws that regulate construction in wildlife refuges, indigenous reserves and the maritime terrestrial zone have been violated, all due to a lack of administrative ethics and environmental controls that are required by law.

On the Pacific coast the situation is no less serious. Hotels are built along the entire coastline without adequate protection of the coastline, the concessionaires owe millions of colones to the state for the right of occupation. Nor is an environmental impact assessment required before issuing construction permits. The national beaches became places of difficult access for Costa Ricans.
The Tempisque River, the main source of water in the province of Guanacaste, also suffers the impact of contamination produced by pesticides from cotton, rice and livestock areas.

In the last thirty years, great changes have taken place in the legal, administrative and social system to protect the environment. The first environmental groups are born and protected areas are created throughout the national territory. Today the national parks are in a serious administrative and financial crisis, despite the fact that there are private companies that generate millions of colones with the resources of these protected areas. However, it is as a result of the discussion of the Miravalles geothermal project, proposed by the Committee for the Defense of the National Heritage in the Legislative Assembly, that the urgent need to introduce in the Political Constitution a unique title of Environmental Guarantees arises, the creation of an Organic Law of the Environment, the establishment of an Environment Commission in the first power of the Republic, as well as a Ministry of the Environment, an administrative body capable of setting ecological policies at the national level.

At present, many of these projects are already laws of the Republic, thanks to the struggle that distinguished Costa Ricans carried out in favor of the environment. In addition, a first paragraph on the right to a healthy environment, the responsibility of the State to guarantee, defend and preserve that right, as well as popular action, was incorporated into the Political Constitution (art 50).

The amendment to article 50 of the Constitution, the ratification of various international conventions and treaties on environmental matters, the establishment of the Organic Law of the Environment, the Law of Wildlife, the Law of Biodiversity and the creation of the Ministry of the Environment are part of the great legal-administrative transformation that the country experienced at the end of the twentieth century. However, these rights, duties and obligations of the State and society change very slowly and environmental problems (water, air, energy, wildlife, marine and land, mines and urban growth) increase in many cases exponentially. Neither the government, nor the private company, nor the majority of non-governmental organizations, nor society have given forceful answers and solutions to such a serious situation.
Therefore, it is essential to include in the Political Constitution a title of Environmental Rights and Guarantees that responds to the public interest and that provides a clear and concise response to free trade agreements. In short, so that ecological rights are duly protected by the Appeal of Amparo and the Action of Unconstitutionality, as fundamental rights that they are. For Costa Rica to become the first country in the world with a Title of Environmental Rights and Guarantees and set an example to the concert of nations in environmental matters. So that the citizen and society have an agile and efficient instrument to protect the environment and establish a new ecological order in Costa Rica and in the rest of the nations. To assure human beings and other species, life and existence on planet Earth.

The Legislative Assembly of the Republic of Costa Rica


Introduce a Title of Environmental Guarantees in the Political Constitution

Article 1.- Create a new title VI in the Political Constitution, running the numbering, which will read as follows:


Environmental Rights and Guarantees

Single Chapter

Article 75.- The State guarantees, defends and preserves the right to an ecologically sustainable physical, biological, cultural, economic, social and human environment to ensure a better quality of life for all the inhabitants of the nation.

Article 76.- The State guarantees, defends, preserves, and maintains absolute, inalienable and imprescriptible dominion over the air, water, subsoil, soil, biological diversity and its components, as well as minerals, hydrocarbons, energetic, coastal, marine resources, the patrimonial sea, the maritime zone of economic exclusion and the protected areas of the nation. By law, the State will regulate its use and public and private exploitation, so that it is in accordance with the rules of technical science and the public interest. The State will promote the use of clean and sustainable forms of energy and technologies. The use of the environment and energy sources will only be allowed in accordance with the principles established here.

Article 77.- Every person has the right to an ecologically sustainable physical, biological, cultural, economic, social and human environment. Respect for the environment and the proper use of natural resources are the duties of all inhabitants.

Article 78.- Any public or private activity that affects the biochemical and genetic component of the country, will be obliged to comply with the rules and principles of effective environmental management in order to guarantee ecologically sustainable development.
Article 79.- The State will promote a collective ethics in environmental matters through education.

Article 80.- A public scientific institution shall provide the State with the criteria required for the establishment of environmental policies and ecological, economic and socially sustainable development.

Article 81.- Every person is entitled to denounce the acts that endanger the rights and guarantees established in this Title and claim the reparation of the damage caused. The actions to avoid and correct situations of environmental deterioration are public. The Law will determine the responsibilities and sanctions of natural and legal persons in environmental matters, including the criterion of doubt in favor of the environment.

Article 2.- For the purposes of adding the new Title VI Environmental Guarantees to the Political Constitution, the numbering of the following Titles is run by one, from the current Title VI Religion and the articles run by seven, from the current article 75.

Article 3.- The second paragraph and the third paragraph of Article 50 of the Political Constitution are repealed

It governs from its publication

Text proposed by the Costa Rican Ecological Movement, accepted and presented before the Legislative Assembly by the President of the Republic, Dr. Abel Pacheco de la Espriella.

* Dr. Gabriel Quesada A.
Costa Rican Ecological Movement
Pulled apart; 5159-1000 San Jose, Costa Rica
Phone :( 506) 221-3351

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