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Bacalar Rejects Formation of Natural Protected Area

The municipality of Bacalar and it’s adjoining lagoon is a little-known treasure of Quintana Roo. Often referred to as ‘La Laguna de Siete Colores’  or ‘The Lagoon of Seven Colours,’ the Bacalar lagoon is an incredibly beautiful natural area with crystal waters of turquoise, emerald, teal and cerulean all merging together. So it should come as a surprise that the residents of Bacalar are opposing the creation of a nature reserve that would protect the unique beauty of the area.   

Bacalar Proposed Natural Protected Area

Bacalar tourism

It’s clear that the state of Quintana Roo are dedicated to protecting the naturally diverse environment of the area. All projects within the state must be approved by the Secretariat of Environmental and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and if the project is deemed too destructive of the natural flora and fauna then construction is denied. Recently a prospective hotel in Tulum was denied permission to build on a piece of land reserved for preservation, for example. And now, the local government have turned their attention to the up-and-coming area of Bacalar.

The National Commission of Protected Natural Areas and the Association Amigos de Sian Kaán are attempting to restrict the development of eco-tourism in the southern part of Quintana Roo. The restriction would include Bacalar and would be achieved by the creation of a natural protected area of 5000 hectares or more. The area covered would include both the coastline and wetlands of Bacalar.

Unprecedented Growth in Bacalar

Bacalar tourism

However, tourism in the region has recently boomed. The mayor of Bacalar, Alexander Zetina Aguiluz, has stated that the tourism sector has experienced a 75% growth over the course of the last year alone. And while the town and surrounding areas are still seen as a sleepy weekend getaway compared to the Riviera Maya for example,  Zetina Aguiluz believes that the recent growth should be build on as a “generator of income for the people of Bacalar in particular, and also for all the people of Quintana Roo.”

Moreover, the area has just been named as one of the lucky areas of Mexico to receive a major tourism project: Blue Lagoon. 236 hectares have been put aside on the Bacalar lagoon for a real estate project aimed at the over-50’s. Specialising in health-care and special needs, the development will also include leisure activities. In total, the project has a $360 million USD budget. This is the first development of such a size in the area, and could be exactly what Bacalar needs to help it’s tourism industry thrive. Local residents and business owners believe that creating a nature reserve would impact the growth of such developments in the future, hundreds of whom have already openly opposed the proposal of the protected natural area.

The verdict of the nature reserve has yet to be cast. However, hopefully the local government, environmental agencies and residents will come to an agreement that both aids the growth of Bacalar as a travel destination while also protecting the natural beauty of the area.