Sustainable Development Success Stories

Coastal Zone General Land Use Plan

Location  Guanacaste Norte Tourist Corridor, the northwestern (Pacific) coast of Costa Rica, Central America.
Responsible Organisation Preparation of the Plan was contracted by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT or National tourism board), with funding provided by the Fondo de Preinversion de MIDEPLAN (the Planning Ministry’s Pre-investment Fund). The Plan was prepared by DEPPAT, S.A. (a Costa Rican planning & environmental consulting firm) and EDAW, Inc. working as partners for the project. Local municipalities and members of the public were also consulted and contributed to the planning process.
Description Tourism is the largest and fastest growing industry in Costa Rica, and its development, success, and longevity are of critical importance to the Costa Rican government and its people. As a result, Costa Rica has enacted a series of national plans that promote the protection and preservation of natural resources and encourage the development of sustainable tourism. The oldest and one of the largest national parks in Costa Rica, Santa Rosa, contains the largest remaining stand of tropical dry forest in Central America, and its beaches provide habitat for more than 100,000 turtles which migrate there each year to lay their eggs. Mangroves are located throughout the study area and provide abundant habitat for fish, bird and wildlife species. Inherent within the laws requiring preparation of the Plan are measures that call for the protection (through the use of mandated buffer zones) of environmentally sensitive areas. The land adjacent to the coast, although not highly populated, has undergone significant modification from on-going agricultural practices (mainly cattle grazing). Existing development has been concentrated in several areas along central and southern portion of the study area. These developments attract both local and international tourists. The proximity of the study area to other attractions (such as volcanic parks, cultural attractions, sport fishing areas and others) also makes this corridor an important focal point for overnight accommodations. The project prepared a comprehensive land use plan for the Guanacaste Norte Tourist Corridor, a 140-kilometer stretch of coastline extending from the Nicaraguan border to Punta Cerritos, considered by the government the highest potential tourist zone in the country.
Issues Addressed Tourism and sustainable development.
Results Achieved The Guanacaste Norte Land Use Plan is the first plan of its kind to support the larger vision provided by the National Development Plan and National Sustainable Tourism Plan. The Plan recommends a series of strategies (infrastructure, training, management, financing, conservation, and others) that are aimed at providing for planned growth by using sustainable and environmentally sensitive systems wherever feasible.
Lessons Learned

The Plan provides a model for similar future planning efforts of this kind. The study area, the Maritime Terrestrial Zone (MTZ), is comprised of a narrow strip of coastal land that is under the supervision of the ICT. Planning within the MTZ requires consideration of the inland and regional influences, although no controls of these areas are possible through the Plan. Therefore early consultation and coordination with regional and local municipalities is integral to the planning process and longevity of the Plan. The Plan includes a series of recommendations and policies aimed at increasing future coordination (i.e., during design review, permit review, etc.) between the various agencies with jurisdiction in the surrounding areas.

Provision and future maintenance of regional infrastructure including systems for solid waste disposal, wastewater treatment, water supply, and roadways for those areas designated for tourism use will be essential to sustainable use. The climate in this area, and throughout most of Costa Rica, has a particularly severe effect on the roadways and annual maintenance costs are extremely high.

The Plan includes policies and recommendations to create a regional and/or localized (where appropriate) approach to these systems, allowing tourism-related growth to support and make better the current systems.

Contacts Eugenio Bermudez - DEPPAT, S.A.
P.O.Box 381-2100, Guadalupe
Costa Rica, C.A.
Email: deppat@sol.racsa.co.cr

Allison Stone – EDAW, Inc.
753 Davis Street
San Francisco, California 94111
Email: Stonea@edaw.com