Dispute over the Protection of the
Environment in Costa Rica
Julio Alberto Bustos
ALTHOUGH THERE ARE many laws for the protection of the environment, there is also incongruity among them.
The existence of a law for practically every environmental problem (forestry law, water law, biodiversity law, and so on) has led to an entanglement of laws that are often redundant, contradictory, and ambiguous and thus hinder cooperation between institutions and limit effective action. From its independence in 1821, Costa Rica has passed more than 19,000 laws for a country of fewer than 4 million inhabitants. More than 8,000 laws are currently in force, taking into consideration the abolition of some of these laws. Such a high figure suggests that, in Costa Rica, the solution for every problem is “passing a law” or increasing the sanctions provided in the existing laws. Whether these laws are in agreement with previous legislation is rarely considered, much less the requirements to put these laws into action, such as the economic and technical resources for their application, the establishment of specialized tribunals, and the instruction of judicial representatives in charge of administering justice in environmental matters.
Laws in general stumble into frequent legislative errors that leave loopholes through which perpetrators of environmental damages escape. For example, the legal norm in forestry law indicates that, independent of its vegetative cover, a plot is not a forest if it is smaller than 2 ha.1 This allows for deforestation of small but vital____________________