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El Cabildo Amatal in Chiapas. El Cabildo Amatal in Chiapas.

Reserve suffering from lack of protection

Garbage, sewage and other factors are hurting protected area in Chiapas, experts charge

A natural protected area in southern Chiapas appears to be protected in name only as some 60 clandestine garbage dumps, 57 sewage outlets, illegal human settlements and heavy industrial activity are having a negative impact on the surrounding marshlands.

Specialists from the Autonomous University of Chiapas (Unach) and the Colegio de la Frontera Sur (Ecosur) graduate school have determined that if conditions don’t change at El Cabildo Amatal, its ecosystem and lagoons “could stop being functional in seven years.”

The reserve covers an area of 3,610 hectares, and its mangroves are part of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.

Academic reports have warned about the unsustainability of current logging practices: about 30% of the wetland area has been deforested and ongoing timber extraction surpasses recommended limits by 250%.

Ecosur researcher Cristian Tovilla told the newspaper Reforma that over the last decade more than 200 hectares of wetlands have given way to farmland.

Deforestation has put the reserve’s four mangrove species — red, white, black, and buttonwood — at risk. Animal species such as turtles, crocodiles, longnose gars and otters have been similarly affected, while jaguars and tapirs have all but disappeared.

The broader effects of an ailing wetland can also be witnessed offshore. The specialists said shrimp production has dropped from 110 tonnes per year to less than half that volume in just over 15 years.

Unach faculty member Vicente Castro Castro charged that activity at the nearby Puerto Chiapas industrial area has also polluted and damaged the natural protected area.

He recalled that over the last seven years two instances of massive fish die-offs have been registered in the vicinity of the industrial park.

Tovilla and Castro have filed several complaints before the federal environmental protection agency Profepa in relation to the situation at El Cabildo Amatal, but no sanctions have been issued yet.

What’s more, added Castro, omissions by the three levels of government only serve to worsen an already dire situation, because the implementation of rescue programs is needed if the area is to recover.

Its lagoon system is also at risk due to runoff that has been creating sediment build-up on the lagoon beds. During the dry season up to half of the lagoons dry up completely.

“The [lagoon system] is going to die, overcome by sediment; we’ll lose the water resource, we’ll lose the fishing resource and this will have effects on the local economy,” warned Castro.

Source: Reforma (sp)

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