Drainage is one of the issues facing Holbox. Drainage is one of the issues facing Holbox.

‘Fix problems or we’ll shut access to Holbox’

State acts quickly to island's threat; work on water, sewer and other issues promised

Fed up with infrastructure problems on Isla Holbox, residents issued a threat late last week that access to the island would be closed for six hours on the weekend.

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But the closure didn’t happen. Instead, the threat brought a prompt response from the state administration of Governor Carlos Joaquín González.

A malfunctioning sewer system and deficiencies in water and electrical service are the main issues faced by the island in Quintana Roo, triggering a protest that would have stopped marine traffic between 10:00am and 4:00pm on Saturday.

“We’ve exhausted all official means and we continue . . . without running water, and hotel cisterns are already empty. Some are using the water from their pools and the power goes out constantly, for entire nights at a time,” charged Alejandrina Selem Salas, spokeswoman for the protesters and a member of the Holbox Hotel Association.

“We have to take these measures to get the municipal and state authorities to do their part,” she said.

To avoid a conflict with tourists who were expected to arrive on Holbox on the weekend, two state secretaries and the director of the state’s Water and Sewer Commission travelled to Holbox Saturday and met with residents.

After meeting for more than six hours, authorities agreed to send 20 tanker trucks of water to the island for households and hotels, and that the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) would install an emergency power plant.

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The harbormaster pledged to have special machinery pump out wastewater tanks, while the state agreed to upgrade roads.

Increased water will be provided with a water tank and pumping rig on the mainland, which will provide five liters per second. A well will also be dug to add another 10 liters a second.

“Twenty-five liters per second are currently pumped to the island, which will increase to 40 liters per second with the planned projects,” said the state in a prepared statement.

Other gains by island residents were the resupply of the local health center with medicines and vaccines.

The implementation of a garbage separation program is to begin tomorrow, and a biodigester — an oxygen-free space in which bacteria break down organic material and produce methane in the process — will soon be built.

In the mid and long term, the state and municipality plan beautification projects and improvements to the solid waste transfer station, the ancient sewer system and storm drains, the water treatment plant and street lighting.

Further into the future the CFE plans to install a submarine cable to boost the island’s electrical supply.

Selem stressed that if implementation of the actions promised by the state does not start in earnest this week, shutting down access to the island will go ahead next Saturday instead.

Source: Milenio (sp), El Universal (sp)

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