The Galapagos National Park Service reported today that it had
decided to permanently halt the construction of a hotel in Punta
Estrada sector of Puerto Ayora, the main town on Santa Cruz island,
in Galapagos. The construction was deemed illegal and
punishable by a fine of $ 52,800. Mauricio Ponce, the
company's legal representative PONCA SA, owner of such
construction, was successfully charged with not previously
obtaining the environmental license for a hotel construction, and
for having caused environmental damage. CNH Tours has
reported previously on this on-going issue.
Additionally, the judicial decision requested that the company
through its legal representative must submit a remediation plan
including full emergency assessment of environmental damage and
compensation for affected people and communities.
The company began construction of a building in Punta Estrada,
Santa Cruz Island, after having obtained municipal permits for the
construction of a single family dwelling, which does not require
the same type of environmental permit. It soon became
apparent however that the dimensions and characteristics of the
building being constructed, consisting of 26 rooms, was equivalent
to a hotel, for which more detailed environmental impact analysis
and permits must be obtained. The building was
already being marketed on the Internet under the name "Palo Santo
CNH Tours has long noted how land based tourism in Galapagos,
which has grown significantly in the past 5-10 years, was poorly
regulated and as a result, the far west / cowboy attitude in this
sector was leading to chaotic development, and compromising of
safety standards. The government authorities have been
working had at getting a handle on this sector and this story very
clearly illustrates how things are starting to improve.
Unscrupulous people will find it increasingly difficult to build
anything anywhere, trying to avoid existing regulations.
Similarly, day trip operators are increasingly under the spotlight,
ensuring that only those with permits are allowed to handle
tourism. The permit systems ensures a better respect of
safety regulations and of environmental
limitations. When considering a land based
activity in Galapagos, be sure you ask the operator if they have
the legal right to carry out the activity.