Despite the lack of basic infrastructure and as there are discrepancies regarding the permitted land uses, the House of Representatives concluded yesterday, Tuesday, that the development of an ecotourism program in the reserve is feasible natural Mona island .
The program would also have a research component in natural and marine sciences, according to representative Maricarmen Mas Rodríguez president of the Commission for Integrated Development of the Western Region.
Mas Rodríguez filed, in 2017, House Resolution 230, which ordered an "exhaustive investigation" on the feasibility of establishing an ecotourism development program and research in natural and marine sciences in Mona. Yesterday, on the last day of the last ordinary session of the four-year period, the representative submitted the final report with the findings of the study that she herself commissioned.
The report recognizes, first of all, that, as Mona is a limestone formation, the Planning Board (JP) included almost the entire island within the Carso Special Planning Area. Specifically, the Carso Special Planning Area Plan and Regulation (PRAPEC) established in Mona an underlying qualification district “Resource Preservation” (PR) and an overlapping district “Carso Special Planning Area – Restricted” (APE-RC )
“According to the Joint Regulation for Construction and Land Use Permits (Joint Regulation), the PR district does not allow ecotourism projects . On the other hand, PRAPEC indicates that ecotourism projects may be allowed in overlapping APE-RC districts, as long as they have the endorsement of the DRNA secretary ( Department of Natural and Environmental Resources ) ”, reads the report.
According to the representative, when these discrepancies occur, "usage and custom" is that the criteria of the superimposed district prevail. "Even so, the JP must rule on this, since it is the agency with the expertise on this subject ," said Mas Rodríguez in his report.
On the other hand, the report acknowledges that, because Mona is an uninhabited island, it lacks infrastructure . Therefore, the eventual developer of an eco-lodge would have to supply everything necessary to satisfy the needs of the guests.
“The developer would have to use solar panels to supply electricity, establish a desalination plant, or if it is possible, obtain a franchise to sink a well, establish a sanitary system and find a way to remove recyclable and non-recyclable material from the island, among other things, "said Mas Rodríguez.
He also admitted that," recognizing the uniqueness and fragility of the Mona ecosystem ”, it would be necessary to establish parameters to minimize any negative impact caused by visitors .
Despite these limitations, the report states that the DRNA favors the ecotourism and research development in natural and marine sciences in Mona .
“In particular, they maintain that the measure promotes the sustainable development of the island, while ensuring the protection of its natural resources. However, they comment that it is essential that comprehensive studies of strategic planning and evaluation be carried out, joining efforts from various sectors, to maximize the potential of Mona Island as a world-class scientific research and ecotourism center, always putting the interest of conservation of such an important natural reserve, "said the representative.
The report highlights, finally, that efforts must be made to obtain the collaboration of private and non-profit entities, particularly to finance the project . Likewise, that “the necessary studies” must be carried out to guarantee the protection of the island.
Various organizations and environmental leaders have expressed their rejection of ecotourism development in Mona, where camping is already allowed on various beaches and excursions, diving, “ snorkeling ”,“ hiking ”and bird watching, among others. All these activities, like hunting pigs and wild goats, require authorization from the DRNA.