Land use protections at Lake Atitlan

The high season is coming and with it our friends and neighbors. I would like in this article to follow up on my preceding article, "The Juridical Aspect of Lake Atitlan," published in the January 2009 issue of The Cruz N ews. In that article I explained that the lake is
categorized as a protected area known as RUMCLA and is governed by the CONAP.

Now what does this mean in our daily lives?

Well, the CONAP in its management plan of the lake has defined different areas of land use.
Primitive Areas
The top third part of the volcanos have been designated Primitive Areas and are set aside as areas of maximum conservation where no human activity is authorized.
Reclamation Areas
Most of the waterfront from Panajachel to the north and west to San Juan are areas of reclama- tion. The object of this zone is basically to promote the natural recovery and reforestation of the area with native species. Goals are to protect water springs, promote practices which protect the soil from erosion, to restablish the connection between the lower part of the lake and the upper part, and to reclaim the forest cover of the shore line.
Protective Forest
The far eastern part of the lake past San Antonio toward San Lucas, where you can see a lot of vegetation and few houses, is categorized as Protective Forest. These areas help to channel water toward the lake.
Municipal Parks
Right now there are 4 official municipal parks: Municipal Park of Chawanimajuyu' ( 357 hectares) in San Pedro la Laguna, Municipal Park of Chuiraxamolo' (172 hct) of Santa Clara la La- guna, Municipal Park Papa (207 hect.) in San Marcos La Laguna, and Municipal Park Panan (711 hect.) of San Juan La Laguna. Unfortunately, Santa Cruz has so far missed the boat despite the fact that they have been invited to have their own municipal park.
Private Reserves
Reservas Naturales Privadas - RNP - is an association which registers properties that are dedi- cated all or in part to land protection. Check their website and the following link to see the map of the lake then click on MAPA NODO ATITLAN. You will see that most of the reserves are located behind the volcanos on the south face of them. Currently there are only 3 reserves around the lake: Laguna Lodge in Santa Cruz La Laguna, San Buenaventura in Panajachel, and Xicaman in San Antonio Palopo.
So now we know that all of the lake and the surrounding areas are protected in different zones that have been specifically defined. We cannot do what we want where we want. Unfortunately, the various institutions have not been endowed with the proper budgets in order to make all this work as planned. But slowly we are getting there.
What does it mean in our daily life?
First of all, if you think you are victim of or a witness to an environmental incident (it could be noise, a building that is horrible, somebody throwing garbage in the lake or oil....), you can file a complaint directly to the Ministry of Environment Click on “Denuncias” and you will see a list of matters that you can report. At the bottom of the list there is a link to formalize your complaint. Your Denuncia with then be directed to the CONAP office in Solola for review.

Second, if you are planning to build a structure on your property such as a new house, cabin or guest house that is larger than 1000 m2 ( adding the surface of all the levels), then you must file an Enviromental Impact Evaluation. This EIA is filed with the CONAP in Solola located at 6th avenue 12- 16, Barrio El Carmen, Zona 1, Solola. Their phone is 7762-3081 and they are open from 8.30 to 1300 and 1400 to 1700. The Regional Director is Mr. Sergio Vasquez.
The CONAP will give you a form to fill out and submit with the different papers you will have to provide. Once you file the EIA they will review it. If the paperwork is accepted they will then plan a visit to the site to check on the project. If everything is OK then you will receive a resolution confirming your project. This procedure can take some time and patience but it is worth it. The only cost is to have an architect, surveyor or engineer sign the plan. We, at Atitlan Solutions, have successfully submitted several of these EIAs and can to do it for you if you prefer not to do it yourself, go to you have to be patient as they are not very fast. Technically you shouldn't start your project before they approve it. The CONAP can also stop you in the middle of your project if you have not presented the proper authorization.
Next time we will cover some of the effects of living in a protected area. If you have any ques- tions, please do not hesitate to consult with us. Remember to check the following links for more
informations on lake Atitlan, Atitlanpropertymanagement, Atitlan rentals, Atitlan Luxury Homes and Atitlan Real Estate

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