Condo Developers Are Endangering Puerto Rico’s Natural Resources
The island doesn’t need high-rise residencies; it needs a sustainable future
A few weeks back, as I scrolled through my Instagram feed, I stumbled across an image of a woman in tears. That woman was Bianca Graulau, an acclaimed Puerto Rican reporter celebrated for her coverage of important issues across the island.
Graulau has tackled topics like the paper extinction of the native Taíno peoples and the island’s loss of food sovereignty, yet her latest topic hit particularly close to home. In the video, Graulau finds out the land behind her house — the land on which horses graze and her dogs hunt iguanas — was purchased by an American developer to build luxury condos.
Preservation isn’t just about beach cleanups and replanting mangroves. It’s also about holding those in power accountable.
To non-natives, this might not seem like much to cry about. It might seem like luxury condos would be just the thing to lift Puerto Rico out of a decadeslong economic slump by creating jobs for locals and providing more opportunities for tourists to come and enjoy the island. But these projects come at the expense of the preservation of natural resources and usually leave local Puerto Ricans getting the short end of the stick. This would be the case with the land behind Graulau’s house.
Her land is protected land. As such, its sale to a luxury developer is very much illegal.
The state of protected lands in Puerto Rico
In 2015, the Puerto Rico Land Use Plan provided a comprehensive set of regulations to organize land use throughout the island and prevent conflicts. A year later, the Puerto Rican Planning Board spearheaded the designation of 10 agricultural and natural reserves around the island. Agricultural reserves are specific areas throughout Puerto Rico that have shown high agricultural value and are set aside to be used in farming. The land behind Graulau’s house is one such area and is technically a part of the Costa Norte Reserva Agricola, which adds an extra layer of protection on top of the Land Use Plan…