The welcome of the New Year was remarkably joyful for football fans in El Salvador. On December 30, the country's president Nayib Bukele announced plans to build a 50,000-seat national stadium. However, after the initial euphoria, environmentalists expressed their objection to the location of the construction site.
The leader of the country informed about the stadium plans on his Twitter account. It is known that construction is to begin in 2022, although the exact date is not yet revealed. The new facility will replace Estadio Cuscatlán, built in 1976 as a representative stadium.
The old venue, although undergoing renovations from time to time, is already heavily worn out. Moreover, due to the new FIFA regulations, its capacity has been reduced from nearly 55,000 to 34,000. The new national stadium will have 50,000 seats.
The president assures that the planned facility will be a source of pride for the people of El Salvador due to its unique design and use of modern technologies. The stadium is to have dedicated areas for the media and VIP guests.
The project is possible thanks to economic cooperation with China and obtaining non-refundable financing. It is said that the construction cost is expected to amount to $500 million with accompanying investments, although this has not yet been officially confirmed.
The stadium will be built in a green area where a military school has operated for 30 years. When the educational institution was established, its neighborhood looked completely different. Today many commercial buildings have arisen around it. As a result, the school will be replaced with a stadium, and the military will get a new training facility elsewhere, twice as large and better equipped.
The relocation of the military school does not bother anyone, but the fact that the stadium will be built in a protected natural area is already a cause for heated debate. Just days after the president's decision was made public, environmentalists took to the stage to argue that El Salvador has more serious problems than the need to build a stadium - such as the drinking water crisis.
In their opinion, the location of the facility is highly controversial, as the construction will significantly interfere with the unspoiled nature and destroy the "last important forest" of the metropolitan area of San Salvador.
According to the Salvadoran media, Julio César Acosta, an expert in wildlife observation, says that the El Espino forest is characterized by a great diversity of flora and fauna, including over 150 species of birds, two of which are seriously threatened with extinction: the yellow-headed parrot and the white-fronted parrot.
In addition, a covered stadium surrounded by a concrete car park will reduce retention and diminish groundwater supplies for the inhabitants of the region. Another side effect of the lack of water infiltration may be flooding in neighbouring areas. Green activists are calling for the government to fund independent research that will clearly assess the environmental impact of the construction and the stadium itself.
The start of construction later this year seems to be a very optimistic scenario, given that the stadium has not yet had a feasibility and environmental impact study.
Author: Rafał Zagrobelny