Mexico: Tulum Protected from Destructive Land Use Changes – For Now

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. PHOTO: Gabriel Barranco on Unsplash

Quintana Roo, on the Yucatán Peninsula, and its freshwater cenotes, coral reefs, mangroves, and stunning biodiversity is under threat from short-sighted development. ELAW partners at the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA) share the following good news in their work to protect this invaluable Caribbean coastline:

A Federal Court has suspended approval of any activities that would allow changes to zoning and land use in Tulum, pending final resolution of CEMDA’s claim. By filing a ‘writ of amparo,’ CEMDA has alleged that certain state and municipal ordinances violate the constitutional rights of Mexican citizens to water and a healthy environment.

“This suspension is critical to give us time, but the fight is far from over,” says Gerardo Álvarez, senior attorney at CEMDA’s Southeast Office.

Gerardo explains that the threat is real: “If Quintana Roo’s law of Human Settlements, Land Use Planning and Urban Development (LAHOTyDU) and the Municipal Program for Territorial, Ecological and Sustainable Urban Development (PMOTEDUS) of Tulum are allowed to stand as written, we will see irreparable damage to the environment and continued violation of human rights.”

The area’s biodiversity is protected both nationally and internationally. The area is surrounded by four federal Protected Natural Areas: the UNESCO incorporated Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, with mangroves recognized by the Ramsar Convention as wetlands of international importance, Tulum National Park, the Arrecifes (Coral Reefs) de Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, and the Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve. Finally, the region’s freshwater cenotes are linked to the traditions, ceremonies, and legends of the Mayan people.

“Many thanks to ELAW attorney Alejandra Serrano for collaborating with us on the review of the Land Use Ordinance,” says Gerardo. “Alejandra helped underscore how the Ordinance violates Constitutionally-protected rights.”

ELAW looks forward to continued work with CEMDA to defend Quintana Roo’s cultural and ecological treasures from destructive urban development.

For more information, please see:

CEMDA. August 18, 2021
Conceden suspensión definitiva que ayudará a frenar cambios de uso de suelo en Tulum

Lori Maddox
Associate Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide