Green Growth in the Face of Climate Change – Support to the Municipality of Othon P. Blanco, Mexico for A Sustainable Development Strategy

Project

At-a-Glance

Approval Date
Actual Completion Date
Proposal Focus
1471
Core Focus
Secondary Cities
Country Type
Mexico
Lesson Learned for Cities Alliance Members and Partners
The process of engaging both the outgoing and incoming municipal administrations has been key to the continuation of the process. It is a rare demonstration of political maturity, with joint meetings and capacity building activities of both administrations which has greatly enhanced coordination and ownership of the initiative. The commitment to a participatory process has also been essential, as it raised the awareness and capacity of over 1000 citizens on the role of the sustainable development approaches, issues of climate change and environmental management and their individual responsibilities and roles in protecting the environment. This commitment to the participatory process was reinforced through the community participatory diagnostic work conducted for the sustainable tourism strategy in seven different communities. The participatory process also contributed to improving the governance of OPB as it provided a mechanism for citizens to voice their priorities and desires for the municipality. Another key lesson learned was the importance of coordination with strategic partners, especially the University of Quintana Roo, representatives of the State Government, and representatives of relevant Federal Secretariats.

Detail

Summary
The Municipality of Othon Pompeyo Blanco, commonly know as Chetumal, has requested assistance from Cities Alliance to help to produce a new (green) dimension to its City Development Strategy. As elaborated in 2008-09, the document -- "Development of the Southern Mayan Coastal Corridor" -- proposes tourism as the driver of Chetumal’s economic growth, capitalising on its geographic position while drawing both tourists and retirees/second homeowners seeking experiences beyond the standard sun, sand and surf.  The Municipality has approached Cities Alliance in this case not to prepare a new CDS, but to support the additional studies, set needed goals, and identify indicators as well as action plans which will ensure that the benefits of the tourism proposal indeed reach all Chetumal's population, while conserving its natural, historic and cultural features. The proposal to consider the CDS as a path to sustainability also adds the challenge of adapting to climate change, given Chetumal's location and its consequent susceptibility to extreme weather events, rising sea levels and species loss.
Objectives
Set the bases for preparation of a Municipal Geotourism Development Strategy – including an initial implementation action plan – to be ratified by the Municipal Council of Othon P. Blanco, Mexico, which takes into account the four principles of: environmental sustainability, socially and economic sustainability, cultural sustainability, and geotourism (tourism which builds on and conserves global goods). Specific Objectives: a) Establish a baseline describing existing conditions for each of the four key issues and define indicators to monitor advances in each; b) Identify stakeholders and organise a forum for exchange of ideas and agreements on each; c) Set goals; d) Set in place a mechanism to monitor, evaluate and continue the dialogue and revision of guidelines to reach goals.
Activities
The first major output of this initiative involved the preparation of a resilient development action plan for the municipality in the form of Local Agenda 21 Strategy from May 2010 to June 2011. A number of actions were taken in preparation for this initiative starting with a multi-stakeholder workshop on May 28 – 29 2010 held at the University of Quintana Roo in Othón P. Blanco (OPB) on Sustainable Development and Climate Change. This workshop concluded with a statement by the Municipal President that OPB would be a model for sustainable and resilient development and established a Multistakeholder Commission (Comisión Mixta) for a Sustainable and Resilient OPB. This was followed by implementation support missions in August and September 2010 which focused on climate change, disaster risk management and sustainable development planning. These missions culminated in a technical workshop on systematized climate resilience planning, the development of a municipal risk atlas, and the development of a green fund to support adaptation efforts. Another outcome of these missions was a study visit in October 2010 to Costa Rica to learn about their experience of eco-tourism and green development. Following this visit the Municipal President committed to engaging in a participatory process to develop the resilient development action plan. To this end, the Local Agenda 21 approach was chosen as it engages all citizens in the development of a vision and strategy and integrates economic, social and environmental management aspects. In December 2011, a detailed work plan was developed and consultant engaged to carry out the process. A total of 15 consultation meetings were held with approximately 1000 people of the municipality to develop a joint vision of a sustainable and resilient OPB. The results (see the attached final document) provide a panorama of the vision of OPB, the main challenges, and priority solutions to address and achieve their vision. It is important to note that since beginning the initiative, a new Municipal President has taken office. He has expressed that he and his administration are committed to taking the plan forward. The second major output was a dedicated strategy for Sustainable Tourism Development in the Municipality of OPB from June 2011 to June 2012. This was based on the identification of the importance as eco-tourism as an economic development strategy and mechanism for employment generation during the Local Agenda 21 planning process, as well as the experience of Municipal officials who participated in the Costa Rican Study Visit. It was therefore agreed with the Municipal administration to conduct a participatory diagnostic and planning exercise in a number of communities endowed with cultural heritage or eco-tourism assets that would likely impacted by climate in the future. To this end, the consultant responsible for facilitating the Agenda 21 Strategy was contracted to conduct follow up workshops in seven different communities identified by the municipality that shared these characteristics. These communities included Huay-Pix, La Unión, Mahahual, Nicolás Bravo, Xcalak y Xul-ha as well as one community in the Municipality of El Bacalar which borders the Lagoon of El Bacalar. This lagoon represents an important ecological resource for the OPB Municpality and it was considered appropriate to conduct consultation meetings in the human settlement which has the largest impact on the resource. In each community participatory diagnostic workshops were held community leaders, with a strong emphasis placed on female community activists and business leaders, as well as community Mayors. These workshops focused on identifying the key natural and cultural heritage assets of the community and how they might be impacted by climate change, gaps in terms of social/human/financial capital to pursuing community based eco/cultural tourism, and potential conflicts between eco/cultural tourism and other important economic activities such as ranching/fishing/agriculture. Based on these workshops, the resultant report (attached) highlights many of the challenges and opportunities for Sustainable Tourism across the Municipality and provides recommendations and outlines a strategy pursuing this objective. The report is centered on a SWOT analysis of tourism in the Municipality. Among the key strengths identified included an abundance of natural assets (coastal marine areas, diverse flora and fauna, unique lagoon and riverine ecosystems), cultural heritage and archeological sites dating back to the Mayan period, unique scenic beauty, proximity to the border with Belize and cross border trade, and community willingness to pursue sustainable tourism. In terms of opportunities, the Municipality is starting from a relatively blank slate, meaning it is an opportune time to get things right and focus on supporting small scale eco-tourism companies (e.g. lodging, guided tours, snorkeling) and complementary activities (seafood and handi-craft production). However, there are a number of weaknesses or challenges restricting the potential for sustainable tourism, including a lack of understanding or appreciation of the concept, the lack of an inventory and publicly available Information on key natural and cultural sites, the poor state of conservation of many key archeological sites, and the absence of an organized transport system and quality hotels for tourists, to name but a few. Going forward, major threats to a sustainable path to tourism include the location of the municipality in a hurricane zone, the risk of invasive species to the coral reefs, the increasing number of cruise ships surpassing the ecosystems carrying capacity, and excessive bureaucracy and in some cases corruption preventing the development of small scale enterprises. The strategy provides concrete recommendations relating to the political, administrative economic, and social aspects of sustainable tourism, as well as measures for protecting key natural and cultural assets from risks such as natural disasters and climate change. Already, it has been agreed with the Municipal of OPB to incorporate the Local Agenda 21 Strategy into the Municipal Development Plan. The Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy has been formally delivered for review by the Municipal administration. The next steps will be its formal approval by the Municipal Council and President. In order to ensure successful implementation, there will need to be strong coordination between the Municipal Administration (especially the Tourism Commission and Planning Director), as well as the relevant assistant secretaries for the State Government, and local representatives of the Federal Secretariats for Planning, Tourism, Environment, Rural and Social Development. The most immediate impact has been exposing Municipal Officials to the latest thinking on sustainable development, climate change adaptation, and sustainable tourism and to begin the process of incorporating these ideas into the Municipal Development Plan. It also included demonstrating the power and value of participatory approaches to sustainable development. Thus, it is anticipated that this grant will lead to a change in planning practices both in terms of content (eco-tourism, climate change adaptation) and approach (participatory, community based and holistic).
Expected Impacts and Results
a) Goals and Action Plans for measurably improving Chetumal's environmental sustainability (both natural and built environment), socio-economic sustainability, cultural sustainability and conservation of global goods through geotourism. b) Monitoring indicators for the proposed Grant consist in:  i.    Finalisation and presentation of baseline studies by end of Month 4  ii.   Finalisation and presentation of proposed goals and action plans by end of Month 7. In addition to the preparation of a Local Agenda 21 Strategy, a Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy has been prepared. This was based on participatory diagnostics with community leaders in seven different communities identified by the Municipal administration as possessing important natural and cultural heritage assets which were potentially threatend by climate change. This diagnostic work provided the basis for SWOT analysis, which was the center of draft Strategy that addressed Political, Social, Administrative, and Infrastructural aspects of Sustaiinable Tourism. This strategy has been delivered to the Municipal administration for the consideration and incorporation into the Municpal Development Plan.