Discovery Communications plans $1B development in Guanacaste. Will there be enough water?
Discovery Communications, the parent company that owns Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, announced yesterday that they are going license their name as part of a $1-billion ecotourism park in Guanacaste. The park, which is scheduled to open at the end of 2020, will be located at four different points around Liberia. The park will focus on adventure activities, including scuba diving, hiking, a water park, and branded hotels and restaurants. The overarching emphasis will be on biodiversity and conservation.
The announcement was received with general ballyhoo across the country. President Luis Guillermo Solís wrote on his Facebook page that this is “one of the largest investments of the last ten years and reflects our vision of sustainable development and respect for communities.” He added that the government is working to “propel, from Guanacaste and for Cota Rica, tourism that works hand-in-hand with competitiveness, sustainability, renewable energies and environmental respect.”
Here’s the president making the announcement yesterday (video in Spanish):
What About The Water?
Guanacaste is in the midst of a building boom. It’s also in the middle of a terrible drought. There are community struggles throughout the province surrounding extraction of water from aquifers, the construction of aqueducts, and administration of water resources. In Sardinal, for example, there have been tense conflicts among local residents, local officials, and outside developers. The environmental lawyer Alvaro Sagot was quoted in La Prensa Libre that “the conflict in Sardinal about carrying water from the Sardinal aquifer to hotels is a serious one, with tear gas and other things being used. From that perspective creating a megaproject, and even announcing it so happily, is so irresponsible. It seems like a lack of respect for those who understand this socio-environmental conflict.”
A project of this magnitude and prestige should be good news for Costa Rica, and I think in the long term it will be. But until we know what the environmental impact studies show – including how much water they’ll need, from where, and what effect this will have on the surrounding communities – we should reserve our accolades for when we have enough information to actually know what this project will be, and what Guanacaste will become.