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Nature reclaims land, mangroves wrecked for Dragon Mart

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Native forest species such as Ciricote, Jabín and Tzalam have returned to acreage that Dragon Mart was to occupy. Photo: Profepa

Two years after vast forest was destroyed to make way for Dragon Mart, the natural habitat is healing, the environmental protection agency says.

The mega-development south of Cancun was controversial from the start. Covering 1,400 acres two miles from the sea, Dragon Mart was to be the Western Hemisphere’s largest venue for selling Chinese goods.

Environmentalists are protective of Benito Juarez, which is abundant with trees like sapodilla, the ramón and the chicle. Its coastal lagoons are populated with delicate mangroves. Off its coast is a piece of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System.

In 2015, federal authorities pulled the plug on the project after two years of serious harm to the area’s sensitive beaches and protected flora and birds. Profepa, the environmental agency, also imposed about the equivalent of US$1.5 million in fines — a historically steep amount — on the Dragon Mart developers.

About 370 acres of mangrove and other plant life and seascape had been razed or damaged, officials said after reversing an earlier ruling that had greenlighted the project. 

Environmentalists were not the only group offended by Dragon Mart’s scope. The business community worried that cheap Chinese products would further flood the marketplace. Juan Carlos Lopez, Dragon Mart’s executive director, had compared the project to a giant, permanent “trade show in Vegas.”

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