Costa Rica, November 2016 – February 2017
It will be at the same shore of the lake – but further and later on those days – that two old men caught my attention, sitting and smiling peacefully in their rocking chairs.
Because of their age I’m quite sure that they must have lived in the old Arenal.’But you won’t see anything of that,’ they laugh, ‘because only in huge droughts -here is the climate change again – you might get a glimpse of the old church.’
The cross on the roof as a unique reminder of the Old Arenal which is now completely indulged by the artificial Arenal Lake.
The patio where the old men are rocking their chairs is part of the Nuevo Arenal Project. Two entire villages were relocated in the 1970s to make the project happen. At the shore of the lake arose two entire new villages from streets to houses, ready to house the inhabitants of Arenal and Tontadora, two Atlantis-like villages at the moment of writing.
They seemed happy, the old men at the lake, as most of the villagers of Nuevo Arenal actually. Arenal has grown since and attracts a lot of foreigners, entrepreneurs and tourists. Back in the 1970s the idea was visionary because of its large scale and because of its cooperation between villagers and government – the owner of the project is the state-owned electricity company ICE. The project made it to several lists of best practices regarding mitigating the impact of a project of this kind on its environment.
Unfortunately this approach isn’t always the case; nor in neighboring countries, nor in Costa Rica itself.