A beach in Quintana Roo, where erosion is carrying away the sand. A beach in Quintana Roo, where erosion is carrying away the sand.

(Another) plan for the recovery of beaches

Tourism Secretariat plans rehabilitation and maintenance program to stop erosion

The government of Quintana Roo has announced a program to rehabilitate and maintain the state’s beaches, which in some areas are losing between two and six meters of sand every year.

State Tourism Secretary Marisol Venegas Pérez said the new program “will start from scratch” in order to create a thorough and coordinated recovery plan.

Venegas has halted 15 beach recovery projects started by private participants with a view to creating a comprehensive and coordinated project instead of doing it piecemeal.

“So far the solutions have been private, urgent and partial . . . property owners assume the risks and try to solve the issue the best way they can,” Venegas said.

Personnel from her office will fly over the affected beaches to assess the current private recovery efforts, carried out mostly by hotel chains on the Riviera Maya and in the Cancún hotel zone.

Venegas highlighted one of the most ambitious: the rehabilitation of a seven-kilometer stretch of beach between Punta Bete and Punta Maroma.

The main investor in the US $30-million project is OHL Desarrollos, the hotel branch of the Spanish construction company OHL. In addition to recovering lost beach, the project includes the creation of artificial reefs to protect the beach and the investment in it.

According to a study presented by OHL to the federal Environment Secretariat (Semarnat), the affected area saw 30 meters of beach lost between 2004 and 2012.

Strong winds and ocean currents are the principal cause of the loss of sand, which has been particularly severe at the beaches Gaviota Azul and Chac Mool, reported the SIPSE news website. Due to the lack of protective action the areas of sandy beach are quickly shrinking.

It was estimated by the Tourism Secretariat in late 2015 that five beaches alone would require 500 million pesos for their recovery and maintenance.

Erosion of the beaches has been a problem for many years.

In 2009, a trust was created and funded with more than 1 billion pesos to restore and maintain the state’s beaches. It appears to have been effective for a while but is no longer operational due to lack of resources, according to one report.

But another suggested the trust was one of several created for the purpose of embezzling public funds.

Last September the Cancún hotels association urged the then-governor elect to make the management of the state’s hotel tax, which funded several different tourism-related trusts, more transparent. The tax was raising more than 700 million pesos a year.

The hotels association accused the previous government of Roberto Borge, who is under investigation by federal authorities for corruption, of embezzling some 1.03 billion pesos allocated to those trusts.

The disappearing beaches is a theme that is also being addressed by state environment authorities. Another report this week said billions of pesos would be needed to save beaches in the five municipalities that have been the hardest hit.

Ecology and Environment Secretary Alfredo Alejandro Guillermo said the investment would begin with restoring reefs and beach vegetation to combat erosion in Cozumel, Solidaridad, Tulum, Puerto Morelos and Benito Juárez. Two major beach destinations — Cancún and Playa del Carmen — are located within two of those municipalities, Benito Juárez and Solidaridad, respectively.

Meanwhile, some people in the state’s tourist industry fear that Tourism Secretary Venegas’ announcement might go no farther than a speech. They claim they have been left out of the loop of government discussions.

“We need a progress report from the different government agencies; we have no information with regard to the beaches and the program they said they’ll reactivate,” said Miriam Cortés Franco, president of the Association of Vacation Clubs of Quintana Roo (Acluvaq).

Source: Milenio (sp), Sipse (sp), La Verdad (sp)

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