Barely a year after the Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, the designation is at risk after allegedly illegal greenhouses were built nearby.
Also known as the Zempoala Aqueduct, the five-century-old construction runs for 45 kilometers between the towns of Zempoala, Hidalgo, and Otumba, State of México. The aqueduct’s path takes it over and underground, crossing ravines and valleys.
But its World Heritage status, obtained on July 5 last year, dictates that the construction be maintained in the same condition it was in at the time it was inscribed.
Since the horticultural producer set up a series of hydroponic greenhouses extending over 24,500 square meters just 100 meters from one end of the aqueduct, in the Zempoala ejido of Santa María Tecajete, the original scenery is described as having been disrupted.
Ignacio Gómez Arriola, coordinator of the heritage site’s management plan, is adamant that current land use permits — dating back to 1992 — do not allow for the establishment of greenhouse facilities.
Building the extensive greenhouses was no inexpensive project for the investors, acknowledged the representative in Hidalgo of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
“We don’t want to affect those who put up their money and created jobs,” said Juan José Arias.”What we can do is, for starters, stop [the greenhouses] from spreading further, and to try and regulate what’s already there with green curtains or some other elements.”
Gómez Arriola sees the greenhouses as “a very small red flag” which could, in time, attract even more investors.
“We’re still in time to resolve this situation without having to turn to UNESCO with a counterclaim,” said the INAH representative.
Another claim against the horticultural investors comes from the state water commission (Conagua), which claims they haven’t been paying for the water they use. That is in addition to the area being off limits for any agricultural development.
For water commissioner Guadalupe Villada the confusion on land use in Santa María Tecajete stems from an official 1928 authorization regarding agricultural use.
Vilada asserted that the commission is eager to find a satisfactory solution for all those involved.
The Inter-Institutional Commission for the Aqueduct announced recently that it will soon present a management plan to convert the aqueduct and its neighboring areas into a world-class tourist resort, through a combination of federal and private resources.
Source: El Universal (sp)