Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Quintana Roo beaches sargassum-free by year end: authorities

Sargassum amounts are decreasing in Quintana Roo but some of it will remain — as houses.

The quantity of sargassum washing up on the beaches of the state is on the decline but it won’t disappear completely until the end of the year, authorities say.

The smelly brown seaweed has arrived en masse on the state’s Caribbean coastline this year, causing a significant drop in tourism and triggering warnings of a serious environmental disaster.

Quintana Roo Environment Secretary Alfredo Arellano said that 155,000 cubic meters of sargassum were removed from beaches and coastal waters in seven of the state’s municipalities between June and September.

The tourist draws of Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Mahahual have all been affected by the seaweed invasion. In response, more than 9,500 residents contributed to the clean-up efforts.

Sargassum on a Quintana Roo beach.
Sargassum on a Quintana Roo beach.

According to the Environment Secretariat (Sema), the amount of seaweed washing up on the state’s beaches will continue to decline throughout this month and by late December it is expected that authorities will be able to officially declare Quintana Roo a sargassum-free zone.

Containment barriers installed off some parts of the coast have helped to stop the seaweed from piling up in a stinky and unsightly mess on the white sand beaches.

But Víctor Manuel Alcérreca Sánchez, general director of the Quintana Roo Science and Technology Council (Coqcyt), believes that more needs to be done to combat the problem.

“We have to strengthen our scientific, technological and innovation capacities to increase competitiveness [in the pursuit of] combating sargassum . . .” he said.

Alcérreca added that state and federal authorities will open a funding application process in the coming weeks to attract new proposals to deal with the seaweed.

One innovative idea that doesn’t stop sargassum from arriving but does provide a use for it once it has been cleared from beaches has already been put into action by a Quintana Roo businessman.

Sargassum house in Quintana Roo.
Sargassum house in Quintana Roo.

By mixing the seaweed with adobe, Omar Vázquez Sánchez has built a two-bedroom, earthquake and hurricane-resistant home in just 15 days.

Two more sargassum houses were due to be built this month in Leona Vicario, a community in the municipality of Puerto Morelos. Vázquez said that the homes will be given to low-income residents.

He added that a Cancún resident had approached him to ask about the cost of building a home —70,000 pesos (US $3,700) — with a view to funding 40 more sargassum-based abodes.

“The main objective . . . is that people of scarce resources have a home,” Vázquez said.

“. . . We’ve approached private institutions, the state government and non-government organizations, among others, to ask them to donate a home so that families in marginalized areas can benefit.”

Source: El Financiero (sp), Noticieros Televisa (sp), Arch Daily (sp) 

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