Environmental Law in Costa Rica
Maintaining a country as naturally endowed and beautiful like Costa Rica does not happen by mere wishing, there has to be some deliberate measures put in place to conserve its natural beauty. This is what the environmental law framework in Costa Rica does.
To achieve the above aim, several bodies and institutions have been set up by the General Environmental Law, Law 7554 of 1995. The law is a broader offshoot of the right to an healthy and ecologically balanced environment provided for in Art. 50 of the Country’s Constitution. Article 1 & 2 reiterates the fact that the environment is a common property, thus both the state and individuals must play their respective roles in ensuring the environment’s conservation and sustainable use.
In addition to the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC), established under the Biodiversity Law, Law 7788 of 1998, the Costa Rica government has set up other decentralized institutions. These institutions include:
- Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE). The institution was created by Art. 116 of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mines (MIRENEM).
- National Environmental Technical Secretariat (SETENA), created by Arts. 83-91. As the society develops, it could have damaging impacts on the environment. This brought about the need for conducting environmental impact studies, then evaluating them and trying to balance environmental conservation with developmental needs. Depending on the environmental impact studies report, the institution then recommends effective remedial actions.
- A specialised environmental court ( Tribunal Ambiental) was created by Arts. 103-112 to hear cases of alleged violations of the country’s environmental legislation.
Other notable provisions of the General Environmental Law are Arts. 32 – 38, that deals with Protected Wildlife Areas (ASP). The areas in question are of seven types: (a) forestry reserves; (b) protective areas/ zones ( zonas protectoras); (c) national parks; (d) biological reserves; (e) national wildlife refuges; (g) wetlands; and (g) natural monuments (Art. 32). ASP’s objectives include conservation and ensuring sustainable use.
The government is very serious about protecting it’s environment, so be careful when visiting Costa Rica. Ask questions so you don’t find yourself in some foreign jail just because you were ignorant of a particular provision of the Environmental law.