Land Use Planning and Watershed Management

Land Use Planning and Watershed Management is responsible for directing, coordinating, monitoring and monitor processes using protection and conservation of watersheds and water systems, land management, geographic information systems, biological corridors and environmental education.​

Watersheds and Water Systems 
Watersheds and water systems house a variety of plants and animals, and provide many opportunities for outdoor recreation. To protect the health of our watersheds and water systems, we can preserve water resources and improve the quality of life for area residents.
The earth planet is composed of 75% water, but only 2.53% of this water is considered viable for human consumption. In recent years the supply of this precious liquid has been becoming a problem for many people around the world and the United Nations for Education (UNESCO) estimates that by 2025 about 4000 million people may lack basic services for the supply of drinking water and sanitation.
In order to correct past mistakes that led to the loss or impairment of a large part of the available water resources, the Global Water Association, during the II World Water Forum in The Hague in 2000 performed the launch of paradigm called "Integrated Water Resources Management" as a proposal to improve the current state of management of water resources and anticipate the possibility of a global water shortage crisis in the coming years.
In compliance with the schemes and principles developed in the IWRM proposal, Costa Rica made a series of changes in environmental and water legislation to recognize the strategic value of water resources, both from an environmental and economic and social. That is why in the year two thousand and two the Executive Branch issued Executive Order number: 30480- MINAE called "Principles governing national policy on Integrated Water Resource Management", in 2003 he issued Executive Decree 31176-MINAE called "regulation creating the environmental tax for dumping" since early 2006 issued executive Order number: 32868 called "Regulations on Canon for Water Use concept". 
The GIRH approach is based on the principles of the Declaration of Dublin (Dublin 1992) disseminated by various events such as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), Inter-American Water Dialogues (Miami, 1993, Buenos Aires, 1996, Panama 1999 and Folz Iguazu 2001), the Conference on Assessment and Management of Water Resources in Latin America and the Caribbean (San José 1996), among others.
For its part, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) also promote integrated water resources to optimize economic and social welfare without compromising the long-term sustainability of environmental management systems. Its outstanding features, as enshrined in the Dublin Principles are applicable not only to the management of water as a resource, but also its use for such purposes as water supply for domestic use and sanitation, irrigation, power generation and environmental sustainability.
Water is considered an ecosystem service which society benefits, both for productive use and human consumption of the resource. In addition, the availability of water in ecosystems allows the development or presence of other goods and services useful to society. In the case of declining of such ecosystems, by natural or provoked causes, it directly affects the regulation of water resources and affects the development of various human activities they support.
Article 22 of Biodiversity Law No. 7788, published in La Gaceta No. 101 of 27 May 1998 gives the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC), the powers of the protection and conservation of the use of river basins and water systems for which it shall issue policies, planning and implementing processes aimed at achieving sustainability in the management of water resources in Costa Rica.
Land Planning and SINAC Responsabilities
In the past 35 years planning the country´s lands has been based on a process of analysis and planning of urban development taking into account only the Law on Urban Planning and instrument municipal regulatory plans. This view has been, and still is, which has governed the meager urban planning that has occurred, and is responsible for many of the environmental problems we face today (IPN, 2008).
Land management is the key to promoting regional and local sustainable development tool. It is a process that must involve the active participation of both public and private / social actors of a territorial area.
The Constitution of the Republic of Costa Rica, through its Article 50 states a mandated to provide to all Costa Ricans a healthy and ecologically balanced environment and safeguard natural resources for present and future generations.
As a complement, the Environmental Act No. 7554, in article VI, points out the basic principles for land use planning from the point of view of sustainable development:

  • Locate optimally within the country productive activities, human settlements, areas of public and recreational use, communication networks and transportation, wilderness areas and other vital infrastructure such as power units and irrigation and drainage districts.
  • Provide guidance for the sustainable use of elements of the environment. 
  • Balance the sustainable development of different areas of the country. 
  • Promote the active participation of the citizens and organized society in the development and implementation of land use plans and regulatory plans of cities for sustainable use of natural resources. 
According to the proposed National Land Management Policy established by the Peace with Nature Initiative in 2008, the goals of the 2010-2014 Chinchilla Administration and the National Development Plan 2010-2014 in preparation; show us how current trend to include the environmental variable in the land use for the country, leading to the conclusion that:
1. All land use planning that takes place in the country, regardless of the scale, if it is desired it becomes a formal and legal instrument, must be made according to guidelines of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in accordance with resolutions of the Constitutional Chamber and the technical procedures established by the SETENA. It should also promote the implementation of the Principles of the Ecosystem Approach (EA), in order to ensure proper use of natural resources and the resulting functionality of ecosystems. 
2. Because regulatory plans do not replace all the land use environmental planning requirements, it is essential to create a strategy based on land management and related legal framework, establishing minimum guidelines for a national policy on the subject. Below is a basic mention of these: Urban Planning Law (No. 4240), Law on Maritime Zone (6043), Organic Law of the Environment (7554), Forest Law (7575) Biodiversity Act (7778), Law Use Soil Conservation and Management (7779), National Emergencies Act and Risk Prevention (8848). 
Human well-being and progress towards sustainable development depend primarily on better management of Earth's ecosystems to ensure conservation and sustainable utilization. But at the same time growing demand for services provided by ecosystems, such as food and clean water, human activities diminish the ability of many ecosystems to meet these demands. Carry out appropriate planning and resource management interventions usually allows to reverse the degradation of ecosystems and increase the contribution they make to human welfare; however, to know when and how to intervene substantial knowledge of ecological and social systems involved it is needed. Having better information does not guarantee that the best decisions are made, but it is a requirement to have a successful process of making decisions (WRI 2003).
Based on the implementation of the above approach, the ecosystem approach and the responsibilities granted by laws such as the Biodiversity and Forest, among others, it is that National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) supports national general land use planning process within the framework of the Housing and Land Management Sector.
One of the main proposals on the implementation of this approach is the Socio-ecological Project Management Units, which aims to promote an integrated approach to conservation for development that will manage, conserve and restore ecological processes that ensure the provision of vital services for the welfare of the population, which is achieved through sustainable use of natural capital and management of the country (more information
The National System of Conservation Areas generates a lot of geographic information about the responsibilities that by law have been granted; Currently, most official maps that SINAC uses for its management, such as the Protected Areas, the biological corridors, the Certification of Natural Patrimony of the State in the maritime zone and the institutions that must develop transfer land classified as State Natural Heritage to SINAC, among others.
From a geographic information system (GIS) which is an organized integration of hardware, software and geographic data designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze and display all forms of geographically referenced information in order to solve complex problems of planning and geographical management, the main task of this component will be to issue the draft guidelines and procedures to standardize the generation, management, dissemination and publicizing of digital geographic information generated at institutional level; as well as to standardize the information that has already been generated, both in the Executive Secretariat and SINAC Conservation Areas.