The natural marvel of Chiapas’ Cascadas de Agua Azul, or Blue-water Falls, appears in danger of drying up but no one is quite sure why.
Residents of the town of Agua Azul, Tumbalá, first noticed that the level of the river that feeds the series of cataracts had dropped noticeably about a week ago.
The vice-president of the Agua Azul co-op, which administers the tourist destination, believes the decline in the river’s flow could have been caused by the earthquake that struck southeastern Mexico on September 7.
Pascual Hernández López suggested the riverbed could have sunk by as much as six meters, diverting the course of the river away from the waterfall.
The river branches into two channels two kilometres before the waterfall, which was fed by the stronger of the two. But the earthquake may have shifted the flow so that more water is being diverted from the falls.
Parts of the area, popular for watersports, have dried out to the point that water that was 50 centimeters to two meters deep is now little more than puddles.
Authorities are saying there is no cause for concern at this point but tourist service providers disagree, fearing that tourists will be deterred from visiting if parts of the river and the falls are running dry.
The waterfall “is a very representative place in Chiapas, it’s one of the most visited places in the state, said one business owner, who warned everyone would be impacted if tourism were to decline.
Officials from the Natural Protected Areas Commission (Conanp) and the state Secretariat of Civil Protection said in a preliminary assessment that several factors could be behind the diverted flow of the Agua Azul river.
They have offered deforestation and geological characteristics of the area as two main reasons, but a more thorough study is required.
The state’s Civil Protection chief predicted that tourism will not be affected by the decrease in water at the falls because it has not stopped flowing yet.
Luis Manuel García Moreno even found a silver lining in the phenomenon: with less water flowing, there is the possibility that new pools could be discovered, offering more tourism opportunities.
Authorities will attempt to redirect the flow of the river to its original course, a task they plan to complete before the December vacation period.
More than 200,000 people visit the falls annually, making tourism the principal source of income for the region. Located about 70 kilometers from Palenque, the water of the Agua Azul river has a distinctive blue color due to its high mineral content.
Source: Milenio (sp)