Mexican environmental authorities have levied a US$555,000 fine against a project to build a massive trade centre south of Cancun to showcase Chinese products.
The office of the Attorney General for Environmental Protection said the fine was for building roads through wetlands and affecting coastal ecosystems without authorisation.
It said the "Dragon Mart" project did not wait for environmental-impact statements. It was unclear whether work on the project could be closed, because the case is still before the courts.
Dragon Mart describes itself as an "international product exhibition centre … with a special emphasis on China".
The company said it was studying the sanction but did not believe that the project had caused environmental damage.
The project has been criticised by environmentalists because its sprawling size - about 142 hectares of residential, warehouse and exhibition space - and because of concerns about deforestation and the massive quantities of wastewater it could create.
Rosa Elisa Rodriguez, of the United Voice for Puerto Morelos environmental group, called the fines only "a first step".
"I think there are a lot of things behind this that must be investigated, such as how they could have got [construction] permits without having realised the need for environmental impact statements," Rodriguez said. "If the laws were really correctly enforced, I think this [project] shouldn't continue, or if it does, in a much more controlled way."
The decision was the latest battle against almost uncontrolled development along the coast south of Cancun, an area known as the Riviera Maya.
Residents of the island of Cozumel, farther south off the coast, have filed complaints against a project to expand the already-huge cruise-ship dock there.
Rodrigo Navarro, of the Ocean Futures Society, said the cruise-port operators were sinking pilings into the ocean floor without putting up the protective membranes that were supposed to protect surrounding coral beds from sediment kicked up by the project or potential oil spills.
Navarro also said the new arm of the dock would force ships to manoeuvre only 22 metres away from the national coral reef park offshore from Cozumel, a popular spot with divers, something that may force temporary bans on diving when ships pull in, in order not to endanger divers.