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Mangroves return to Tajamar

Activists Fight to Save Cancun’s Tajamar Mangroves

Activists Fight to Save Cancun’s Mangrove Forests

Mangroves return to Tajamar

By Lizz Giordano

Tiny green sprouts push past the rubble weeks after bulldozers razed a mangrove forest that lined the Mexican coast in Cancun. A recovery was beginning as birds and reptiles slowly repopulated the area, but the fight wasn’t over to save the Tajamar Mangrove from becoming offices buildings, apartments or stores in the resort town.

Hundreds of citizens and activists worked for years to protect the thriving mangrove forest, but in the predawn hours of January 16 2016 developers destroyed about 110 acres for the new development– Malecón Tajamar. Immediately the loss was felt by the community. A federal judge halted construction after developers failed to follow the law that required the relocation of all endangered species. Activists with the Salvemos Manglar Tajamar stand guard, preventing developers from pouring concrete and continuing their work.

“The project is stopped for now and that keeps us tranquil but we are still vigilant,” said Cristina Sardaneta, an activist for the group Salvemos Manglar Tajamar.

In the last couple of decades over 35 percent of mangroves have been lost in Mexico due to logging, coastal development and climate change. “The loss of mangroves is not and should never be trivial,” Greenpeace wrote in a statement after the demolition.

The Mexican National Commission for the Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) estimates mangroves contribute significantly to the fishing industry and offer the coast protection from flooding–the areas that have lost their natural barrier experience more frequent flooding. Mangroves are also crucial for protecting the city from hurricanes, blocking a majority of the heavy winds. They also help cool the city and absorb huge quantities of carbon.

Forty years ago Cancun was a wild jungle filled with exotic fruit trees, shrubs, trees, medicinal plants, orchids and other types of flowers. Today few green spaces exist in the city, the mangrove forest was a popular area for locals to enjoy a ride bike, run or walk with their families.

The development project was stopped once before in November of 2015, after a group of a 113 youth filed a Federal Trial for the Protection of Constitutional Rights in a district court. They group demanded “their right to a healthy environment to be respected, specifically demanding for the cutting and clearing of the mangrove in the development of the project known as Malecón Tajamar to stop,” the group Salvemos Manglar Tajamar wrote in a press release.

In a historic ruling the judge granted a definitive suspension, but the joy was short lived. The youngsters were ordered to reimburse investors and developers 21 million pesos, approximately $1.1 million. This case along with another filed by a group of adults remains in court after groups filed objections to the decisions.

A law passed by the Mexican government in 2007 banned all mangrove destruction, but Malecón Tajamar project lots were sold before the law took hold. However Cristina said Salvemos Manglar Tajamar were able to file complaints and lawsuits after developers failed to relocate animals before construction. “When they devastated the area, crocodiles and other animals were there. So the law says that if you do not comply with even only one of the conditions that permit must be cancelled,” said Cristina. “So authorities can cancel the project, but there is so much money invested and they handled it so poorly that they would need to give back millions of dollars.”

Now that work has halted the next challenge is to ensure construction does not start, giving the area a chance to regrow. Greenpeace condemn the destruction but believes the mangroves and natural habitat could reestablish itself if it’s left untouched and development stops. But mangrove reforestation can take up to 10 years.

A recent gubernatorial election brought a change of power to Quintana Roo, the state that contains the city of Cancun, has activists worried. One commentator noted this doesn’t bode well for the mangroves, because the amount of money put into the election by “interested parties” will require some serious payback.

The movement started as an audio note on the social media platform WhatsApp, the Salvemos Manglar Tajamar message continues to spread, traveling across the globe via Facebook with activists from as far away as Mongolia posting images with signs declaring their support for the movement. No final resolution decision has been decided but the courts and the group continues to speak out on social media trying keep residents engaged.

“We are visiting schools to speak to children about the importance of mangroves and climate change,” said Sardaneta. “We are organizing events every one or two months in Tajamar so that people go and participate with us.”

The future of the Sundarbans lies in the hands of its youth

The future of the Sundarbans lies in the hands of its youth

The following is an excerpt adapted from an upcoming article in Aramco World Magazine written by friend of MAP Lou Werner.

The great mangrove forest at the head of the Bay of Bengal known as the Sundarbans has one of most complex river systems in the world, a fine mesh net of distributaries seaward to the south and tributaries from the plains and mountains of the north, including the waters of three of Asia’s largest- the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna – as well as some fifty others.

The natural contour of this feeder system is also affected by manmade interventions like large upstream dams, notably the Farakka Barrage on the Ganges in India; artificially dredged connector canals called “cuts”, such as the Halifax Cut between the Nabaganga and Madhumati Rivers in Bangladesh; and many low-lying artificial rice cultivation islands called polders, made by building high, non-floodable embankments.

The distributaries run heavily in the rainy season and slowly in the dry through a web of 450 creeks, branches, and canals. Some of these are filled with sediment so they flow poorly, and others are temporarily dammed by farmers so they periodically dump large amounts of highly saline water into the rivers’ more brackish flow. In unlucky years, cyclones blow in and wreak their own havoc.

An even more insidious threat to the Sundarbans is global sea level rise, and the people who live nearest the forest increasingly see their lands under threat. Those on the Bangladesh side of the border, where the human and non-human ecosystems are most interlocked, amount to some four million people.

One does not need to be an oceanographer or hydrologist to know much about one’s environment. Experts aplenty can be found on the banks of the Passur River, one of the forest’s major distributaries, at the Badamtala Laudop School’s student-led Mangrove Club. Fourteen year old club president Pronoti Mridha has taken a three-day workshop taught jointly by the Khulna NGO CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network) and the US-based NGO Mangrove Action Project, and she has clearly learned a lot.

Sundarbans Bonbibi

Sundarbans Bonbibi

The annual worship ceremony of Bonbibi, Protectress of the Sundarbans, takes place at forest altars not far from Pronoti’s school. The legend is read before effigies of (from l. to r.) the Devil King disguised as a tiger, the Goddess Bonbibi, the boy honey collector, and the deceitful merchant who offers the boy’s life to the tiger in return for a free hand to exploit the forest. Bonbibi rescues the boy, punishes the merchant, and sends the tiger back into the forest- all in rhymed verse intoned by a priest before the faithful. Photo credits: Nasir Mahmud

For a foreign visitor, she answers correctly a series of rapid-fire questions, “Why might one see a swarm of bees out over the water, far from land? Which birds are resident and which are migratory? Identify the links in the Sundarbans food chain.” Pronoti stops after naming the twenty links that she learned from a classroom exercise, in which twenty students, each representing consecutive prey animals in the food chain, hold a rope at even intervals. If one species disappears, that section of rope falls to the ground, and the entire chain is in danger of extinction. Pronoti ends her examination with a firm answer, “I want to be an entomologist…ants, not bees.”

Pronoti leads a visitor into her club room where thirty school age members are waiting. The questions continue, some with a twist, for those brave enough to step forward. “What is more beautiful, a macharanga or a akash moti?“ (literally, a “colored fish” and a “sky pearl”, both being the names for local insect-eating birds. “What kind of Sundarbans tree is that?” the visitor asks while pointing out the window to a banana plant. One boy corrects his elder and answers confidently, “No sir, bananas do not grow wild in the mangrove forest.”

Pronoti then leads her club members in a dance and song to illustrate what the natural ecosystem means to her parents and neighbors who make their living from its bounty. Rain, flood, forest, fish and fauna are all conjured up through hand gestures and foot stomps. The song ends with a loud round of applause.

The future of the Sundarbans mangrove forest lies in the hands of young people like Pronoti. If she grows up to some job in the worlds of science and policymaking, and if her country listens closely to what it can do to protect its forest and then acts accordingly, then perhaps Bangladesh will survive all the environmental insults that come to it from other parts of the globe.

MAP Partner APOWA celebrates Children’s Calendar Winner

MAP Partner APOWA celebrates Children’s Calendar Winner

MAP’s Children’s Mangrove Art Calendar has been one of our favorite programs for 15 years. We were delighted to hear from our friends at APOWA that the calendar contest’s prompt, ‘What do mangroves mean to me and my community’, became the topic of greater conversation earlier this month.

Read the report from APOWA.

Continue reading

Tourism Responsible For Coastal Resource Loss Cited

Tourism Responsible For Coastal Resource Loss Cited

12 February 2009

Activists who attended the 2009 World Social Forum in Belém do Pará, Brazil, from 28 January to 1 February, denounced contemporary tourism policies dominated by the neoliberal vision of national governments, the global tourism industry and global organizations like the UNWTO and affirmed that it is urgent and possible to bring about another tourism (see #1).

Mega-resort and real estate developments and the enormous problems they cause for society and the environment featured high on the agenda of the WSF tourism seminar. The plan to launch an international campaign on these issues found great interest so that activists in Latin America are now developing a concept for alliance-building and action. It is hoped that a wider range of popular movements – including fisherfolk, Indigenous Peoples, mangrove protectors and other environmentalists – will join the global action network that will work to protect coastlines and other valuable ecosystems from destructive resorts, golf courses and marinas. To facilitate the process, campaign groups, including the Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team, have prepared a sign-on statement that calls for a moratorium on harmful mega-resorts and real estate developments (#2).

If you can endorse the statement, please email us at tim-team or at Equations .

For some years already, Spain, and the Valencian Region in particular, have come in for heavy criticism for their infamous `land grab’ town planning laws that allow resort developers to expropriate land from private owners (see #3). Victims of these laws, many of whom have lost their homes and been financially ruined by greedy businesspeople and politicians, took their complaints to Brussels when it became clear that the local administration did not care. Subsequently, the European Parliament has condemned Spain three times since 2003 on the `land grab’ issue. On 11 February, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) launched a new offensive against the notorious Spanish laws after the Petitions Committee approved a damning new report slamming planning loopholes.

This case from Spain illustrates as to how hard small land and home owners have to struggle against powerful alliances of unscrupulous developers and politicians. Sir Robert Atkins, a British Tory MEP, was quoted in The Telegraph (12 Feb 2009) as saying: “The scandalous behaviour of some developers, builders and local authorities resulting in people losing their homes has to stop now. The emotional and financial trauma suffered by so many legitimate home owners has to be rectified.” He added, “The European Parliament has expressed a forceful condemnation of Spanish Land Law and its implementation and it is imperative that all political parties in Spain understand the anger of residents and act to change the law as soon as possible.” Hopefully, such sympathy and solidarity action are not only restricted to Europe but will also be extended to farmers and fishers folks in Third World countries, who are even more vulnerable and defenseless when tourism and real estate developers illegitimately take over their land, forests and beaches.

Yours truly,

Anita Pleumarom
Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team



World Social Forum, Belém do Pará – Brazil, 28 January to 1 February 2009

We, participants of the Global Tourism Interventions Forum, which took place between 28 January and 1 February during the World Social Forum in Belém of Pará, Brazil, Pan-Amazon region, members of organizations of countries of Latin America, North America, Asia, Africa and Europe, affirm that another tourism is possible and urgent!

We denounce the hegemonic tourism policies as the main obstacle to build another model of tourism. These policies are characterized by: >>the neoliberal vision of national governments, the global tourism industry and global organizations like the UNWTO; >>the privatization of territories of traditional and indigenous people by trans and multinational corporations backed by the governments, especially in developing countries;
>>the unpunished favoring of continuing sexual and economical exploitation of the labor and body of women, of children and young people and of workers, a clear and repugnant violation of human, social and labor rights;
>>the destruction of the environment, in coastal areas, forests, territories of traditional and indigenous people and places of great natural scenic beauty, where big tourist real estate enterprises are installed bringing about financial speculation;
>>the lack of democracy and transparency with which they are implemented, deliberately excluding the participation of communities and critical organizations in the decision-making process;
>>the aggravation of poverty among local populations and of social inequality;
>>the concentration of income from tourism in the hands of big corporations facilitated by large amounts of public funds and by international financial institutions;
>>and the deregulation of tourism contributing to the several social and environmental conflicts that we identify in various parts of the world as a result of predatory, excluding and unsustainable tourism.

Conventional tourism contributes to global warming and climate change. It emits greenhouse gases while privileging tourism transport means moved by fossil fuels, besides other unsustainable practices and consumption forms. While settling in coastal-marine areas, in territories of indigenous and traditional peoples who live interlinked with the environment, destroying natural ecosystems (dune fields, mangrove swamps, sandbanks) for the construction of resorts and hotels, and when privileging a mass tourism that doesn’t respect the carrying capacity, neither the needs, aspirations and sustainability concerns of communities of the tourist “destinations”, while privatizing territories expelling many communities towards unhealthy and unworthy urban areas it increases social and climatic injustice and the vulnerability of these communities with respect to the impacts of climate change. We will raise more awareness about the relationship between tourism and climate change in the current negotiations of the UN Convention on Climate Change.

We defend a kind of tourism, with a logic opposed to this current model of tourism and speculative real estate development that threatens the territories of traditional peoples, trying to transform nature enclaves and cultures into economic goods in the interest of big capital. In fact, with hope, self-determination and courage, several experiences based on networks are blooming in all continents, which clearly respect community-based and solidarity tourism, firmly guided by the respect of local cultures and the environment. These are legitimate expressions of struggle and resistance of communities against a conventional, unsustainable and exploitative tourism, the defense of their territories and natural resources, rescue and affirmation of their deep cultural expressions, and a means to strengthen their local and community organizations. These are experiences of a tourism model that values the way of life of those communities, narrowly linked to the ecosystems that guarantee their survival.

We call upon all citizens of the world to contribute to the consolidation of community-based, solidarity, just and sustainable tourism, through their organizations and as conscious consumers, and to produce and exchange knowledge and experiences; to defend public policies that seek the regulation of tourism, immediately stop public financing of tourism mega-enterprises and ensure the right of access of communities to the territory, of the constitutional and human rights of the communities to development and self-determination, as well as the rigorous application of the environmental legislation respecting biological and cultural diversity; and to support the resistance struggles in the whole world as well as the alternatives and concrete experiences of community-based and solidarity tourism.

Belém, 1 February 2009.

Brazilian Forum of NGOs and Social Movements for the Environment and
the Development (FBOMS), Argonautas Environmentalists of the Amazon,
EQUATIONS (India), Forum for the Defense of Ceara Coast, Institute
Terramar, TURISOL Network, TUCUM Network, Coopesolidar (Costa Rica),
Institute Vitae Civilis, Association for the Defense and the
Development of Kuelap (Peru), Alba Sud (Spain/Nicaragua), Association
for Responsible Tourism (Spain), Brazilian Institute for Consumers
Defense, Community Mapuche-Tehuelche Pu Fotum Mapu (Argentina),
Association Amigos of Prainha do Canto Verde (Switzerland).

For more information, contact:
FBOMS – Fórum Brasileiro de ONGs e Movimentos Sociais
para o Meio Ambiente e o Desenvolvimento
SCS, Quadra 08, Bloco B-50
Edifício Venâncio 2000, Sala 105
CEP 70333-900
Brasília, DF – Brasil
Fone: (61) 3033.5535 ou 3033.5545

Source: Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team

New Foundation Blog Focuses on Asian Issues

New Foundation Blog Focuses on Asian Issues

The Asia Foundation recently announced the launch of In Asia, a weekly, in-depth, in-country resource blog for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events shaping Asia. Drawing on the first-hand insight of renowned experts in over 20 countries, In Asia will deliver concentrated insight and analysis on issues affecting South, Southeast, and Northeast Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and public opinion polls in news-making countries like Afghanistan and Nepal. In Asia’s weekly content includes In the News, an ongoing series of in-country perspectives of events and Notes from the Field, feature stories on inroads made in governance, women’s empowerment, economic reform, and international relations throughout Asia. Visit the website to read In Asia’s current issue. Source:  Asia Foundation

Blog post by Whole Foods Markets Needs Your Comments

Blog post by Whole Foods Markets Needs Your Comments

Editor’s Note: Whole Foods Market, a large and respected chain of grocery stores based in the U.S., recently published a disturbing comment concerning farmed shrimp on their company blog.  I submitted the following comment, which the blog’s moderator declined to post, but I urge others to try to post comments to their blog. They need to hear from us.

Go to and add your remarks to the Comments section.

Below are my comments to Ms. Carrie Brownstein, the Whole Foods Seafood Quality Standards Coordinator, who wrote the original blog post:

Dear Ms. Carrie Brownstein,

Although I appreciate your attempt to source more sustainably produced farmed shrimp, I must caution Whole Foods that your attempts are based on false premises. As Whole Foods Seafood Quality Standards Coordinator, you are responsible for the new aquaculture standards, but if as you say: “with farmed shrimp, a major concern is damage to habitat, specifically fragile wetland or mangrove forests,” please note that salt flats are themselves important coastal wetlands, which are in urgent need of protection and restoration. Salt flats, like mangroves, are providing vital habitat for coastal marine life and migratory birds. If we lose many more of these valuable inter-tidal wetlands to shrimp farms, we may lose whole migratory bird species that use these zones for needed stopovers to feed and rest.

Thus, salt flats are also very important wetlands onto themselves, and should be conserved in their own right. Whole Foods may well be doing both itself and the larger community you serve a terrible disservice by selling farmed shrimp from Honduras that is raised in the mentioned salt flats. By developing the salt flat areas, mangrove wetlands are being degraded and threatened by this practice. In a real sense, these shrimp farms are still within the mangrove wetland zone in that these inter-tidal wetlands are interconnected, whereby the mangrove forest is tied to the adjacent mud flats and salt flats, and when one is degraded or destroyed by shrimp farm development, this adversely affects the other related inter-tidal zones.

With ongoing sea level rise, that same disturbed salt flat will itself become a prime habitat site for the mangrove forest life that will need to migrate to this higher ground for its survival. We at Mangrove Action Project are now asking consumers and retailers via our “Shrimp Less, Think More” Consumer Awareness/ Markets Campaign to not buy imported shrimp, but instead buy seasonal U.S. wild caught and farmed shrimp which are produced in the U.S. in a more regulated and eco-friendly manner. This will mean that consumers will have to reduce their consumption levels, but this reduction in demand will help save our oceans and coastal wetlands from otherwise certain loss with serious consequences for this planet.

Please take a truly proactive ecological stand on these vital issues today, and do not lose the inter-tidal wetlands for the trees!