Wednesday, November 30, 2022

From natural treasures to garbage dumps

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They have been described as natural treasures but many of the cenotes, or sinkoles, found in the state of Yucatán have become convenient places to dump garbage.

But cleanup efforts have been under way. During the last six months, non-governmental organizations and state and federal agencies have removed as much as three tonnes of garbage from 10 cenotes.

One of the main proponents of clean-up efforts involving scuba divers is Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi, coordinator of the Mérida organization, Expedición Grosjean.

The NGO, along with the federal Environment Secretariat (Semarnat), the Subaquatic Ecology of Yucatán organization and primary and secondary school students, carried out cleaning and garbage collection in the Xpakay cenote, located in the municipality of Tekit.

Six divers and workers on land collected about 700 kilograms of garbage.

“It seems that people don’t give a damn about the condition of these priceless natural resources,” said Grosjean, who believes that collaboration by the public, the private sector and municipal and ejido leaders is needed to restore and keep the cenotes clean and in good condition.

“It is incredible to take out from the depths of the cenotes all kinds of objects . . . a wide range of waste that the very communities allow to be disposed of in the cenotes, as if these were public landfills,” he said.

“The Yucatán peninsula is the only region were hundreds of cenotes — unique natural resources — exist, and they should be valued in all their magnitude.”

The joint expeditions managed to remove 600 more kilograms of garbage and waste from other cenotes, including those of Yaxcabá, Tecoh, Noc Ac and Dzityá.

According to an atlas currently being compiled by the state’s Urban Development and Environment Secretariat (Seduma), there are 2,800 sinkholes in Yucatán, 15 to 20% of which are currently abandoned and dirty, full of garbage and prey to the constant pillaging of their natural and archaeological treasures.

The Semarnat representative in Yucatán told the newspaper El Universal that the agency had cleaned 24 cenotes last year. “. . . we must raise awareness at all levels, from the Maya communities to the young students, professionals, business people, government and the public at large.”

A study by the University of Yucatán found that more than 400 cenotes in 20 different municipalities show high levels of contamination. Toxic compounds and pesticides used in agriculture were identified by the study.

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

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