La Paz, Mexico

Environmentalists Overpowering Developers in Fight to Save Natural Areas

May 28, 2008 09:44 AM
by Liz Colville
Residents in La Paz, Mexico, fought to protect a pristine beach from golf courses and hotels—and won. The victory adds fuel to a growing ecotourism movement.

30-Second Summary

Untouched Balandra beach, near La Paz, was a developer’s dream. “From an expanse of flawless white sand, implausibly turquoise water shelves out over a stoneless seabed to a clear horizon,” writes Robert L. White of the Guardian.

The beach, like so many neighboring areas in Mexico, seemed destined to become a knot of hotels, jet skis and golf courses, until a La Paz area group, Colectivo Balandra, submitted a petition with more than 18,000 signatures to leave the beach untouched.

On March 25, after a protracted battle over the beach’s fate, state officials designated about 5,000 acres of the shoreline and ocean as a legally protected Natural Area.

The La Paz region, whose environmentally rich Sea of Cortez was dubbed “the largest aquarium in the world” by the pioneering oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, was threatened in 2005 by a “flurry” of development.

“As in Acapulco or Cancún, air-conditioned boutiques would have sold trophy watches while wandering hawkers flogged hand-plaited wristbands,” says the Guardian. “But the people of La Paz have looked into that particular future and dared to choose another path.”

The conservation of Balandra beach is seen by some as a turning point for Mexican tourism, suggesting that the country may be moving toward the practice of sustainable tourism, or ecotourism. Increasingly popular with many travelers, ecotourism has limited environmental impact and helps to fund preservation of the natural areas needed both to draw visitors and to sustain local communities.

Headline Link: ‘The beach that turned back the commercial tide’

Background: La Paz development on the rise

Related Topics: Sustainable tourism gaining ground; development in the Amazon

Key Player: Colectivo Balandra

Reference: National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations


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