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Mexico fines Chinese trade center $555,000

Friday - 8/15/2014, 7:50pm  ET

MARK STEVENSON
Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Mexican environmental authorities have levied a $555,000 fine against a project to build a massive trade center south of Cancun to showcase Chinese products.

The Attorney General for Environmental Protection said late Thursday the fine was for building roads through wetlands and affecting coastal ecosystems without authorization.

The office said the project known as "Dragon Mart" did not wait for authorization of environmental impact statements for the work.

It was unclear whether work on the project just south of Cancun could be closed, because the case is still before the courts.

Dragon Mart, located just south of the resort of Cancun, describes itself as an "international product exhibition center ... with a special emphasis on China." The company said in a statement to The Associated Press that it was studying the sanction but did not believe that the project had caused any environmental damage.

The project has been criticized by environmentalists because its sprawling size -- about 350 acres (142 hectares) of residential, warehouse and exhibition space -- and because of concerns about deforestation and the massive quantities of wastewater it could create.

Environmentalists said Friday the fines were a positive step, but called for the project to be halted or scaled down.

Activist Rosa Elisa Rodriguez of the United Voice for Puerto Morelos group called the fines "a first step."

"I think there are a lot of things behind this that must be investigated, such as how they could have gotten (construction) permits without having realized the need for environmental impact statements," Rodriguez said. "If the laws were really correctly enforced, I think this (project) shouldn't continue, or if it does, in a much more controlled way."

The decision was the latest battle against almost uncontrolled development along the coast south of Cancun, an area known as the Riviera Maya.

Residents of the island of Cozumel, further south off the coast, have filed complaints against a project to expand the already-huge cruise ship dock there.

Rodrigo Navarro, of the Ocean Futures Society, said the cruise port operators are sinking pilings into the ocean floor without putting up the protective membranes that were supposed to protect surrounding coral beds from sediment kicked up by the project or potential oil spills.

Navarro also said the new arm of the cruise ship dock would force ships to maneuver only 22 meters (yards) away from the national coral reef park offshore from Cozumel, a popular spot with divers, something that may force temporary bans on diving when ships pull in, in order not to endanger divers.

"They are not acting in concordance with what the law says," Navarro said.


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