Illegal hotel construction finally halted for good

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 Spa".

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.