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Impacts of deforestation of wetlands in the Cuyamel-Omoa National Park

Impacts of deforestation of wetlands in the Cuyamel-Omoa National Park

Cuyamel-Omoa National Park is a protected area located in the northwest region of Honduras, in Omoa, Cortes, bordering other protected areas such as the Cusuco National Park and the Manabique Point Wildlife Refuge in Guatemala.

The park comprises a key link in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor and the Mesoamerican Reef System within the Gulf of Honduras, which contain ecosystems and land and sea species that are unique on the planet.

In 2011, the National Institute for Forest Conservation and Development published the ministerial agreement No. 008-2011 that declared the park to be a protected area, and on February 2nd, 2013, it was declared a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, with the number 2,133.

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This has led to the formation of projects with other national and international organizations. Social, economic and environmental projects permit effective management of the national park. With the Canadian organization Falls Brook Centre, a project was launched called “Community Resilience for the Conservation and Restoration of Mangroves on the North Coast of Honduras”, with actions and participation by the populations of coastal communities, and important achievements in the ecological restoration of species such as mangroves and others associated with the wetland ecosystem.

The actions and achievements of the project have been threatened because of a gradual deforestation of the flooded forest in the southern part of the wetlands that has been ongoing since 2012. This slash-and-burn activity has been done by landowners interested in establishing a monoculture of African palm.

In the beginning of 2013, this destruction accelerated with the deforestation of more than 800 hectares of flooded forest. In spite of complaints presented to the authorities since the problem began, investigations were not carried out and no fines were levied, even though the damage occurred in the centre of the park.

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This impunity remains ongoing in the face of environmental crimes and the Honduran state authorities have not taken any action or made any statement regarding this situation. This creates a terrible precedent for the system of Protected Areas of the country and demonstrate a clear disinterest on the part of the Honduran state in ensuring compliance with environmental or forest laws, or international accords such as the Convention on Biological Diversity or the Ramsar Convention.

The Omoa Conservation Corps, a co-managing organization of the Cuyamel-Omoa National Park, has asked the relevant governmental institutions to assume the responsibility for dealing with environmental crimes, control and restore the natural state of the protected area and promote an appropriate management plan of the National Park. These objectives conform to the government’s own, such as enforcing national law and the international conventions to which the state is a signatory.

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We are aware of the effects of climate change, and we know that the most affected areas will be the coasts of the Gulf of Honduras. Therefore we demand a serious and timely intervention so that this will not be yet another case environmental crimes being committed with impunity.  Our organization is watching the course of events, since it is the communities and inhabitants of fishing villages that are the worst affected, because they depend directly on environmental goods and services that these ecosystems provide, much like the rest of the inhabitants of the Municipality of Omoa and the Gulf of Honduras in general.

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