Megaprojects threaten the water of the Yucatán Peninsula

(Photo: La Jornada Maya)

During the Peninsular Forum in Defense of Water and Life, experts point out that most of the megaprojects that are installed in the Yucatan Peninsula are supported by the generation of jobs, but these are largely temporary. The forum was held this Saturday, April 2nd, organized by the Yucatan Citizen Council for Water.

Likewise, they pointed out that projects such as pig farms, beer companies, the hotel industry, real estate, the Maya Train project, agribusiness, pesticides, and other actions have severely damaged the quality of the water in the region, and this in complicity with the authorities of the three orders of government.

Therefore, they pointed out that it is important to consider more complex evaluations, in addition to the Environmental Impact Statement (MIA), to authorize these projects, and not only take into account the supposed generation of jobs.

“We will continue to fail over and over again in creating a more sustainable society because the way we perceive development is absolutely lame,” said Guadalupe Vázquez Olimán, Guadalupe Velázquez Olimán, from the Research Center for Sustainable Development (CIDES).

The expert explained that megaprojects are those that use significant amounts of water for their processes and have the potential to alter the hydrological and social cycle of the territory in which they are immersed.


Water extraction

Guadalupe Vázquez revealed that in total, in the entire Yucatan Peninsula, 4 thousand 630 million 361 thousand 984 cubic meters of water are extracted annually through 48 thousand 677 water concessions; mainly for services, hotel industry, air conditioning, agriculture, urban public, at very low costs.

The largest amount is extracted in Yucatan with 2 thousand 126 million 631 thousand 681 cubic meters in more than 32 thousand concessions.

However, this figure contrasts with the wastewater register, that is, there are practically no water treatment plants. Only about 3 percent is treated, said the science teacher, Ana Sofía Lázaro Salazar. “Which creates a constant contamination problem,” she added.


Looting of the nation’s assets

Ana Sofía indicated that companies can access concessions at very low costs, around 2,600 pesos per year, however, they discharge their untreated water into the aquifer. In 2020 alone, to measure the problem, she indicated that Coca-Cola, Danone, and Pepsi obtained profits of 66 billion pesos only from bottled water.

“This lack of proportion of what companies pay to exploit the liquid and the profits they receive, represents a looting of national assets, they are water millionaires,” she said.

In the specific case of Yucatan, there is poor government management, explained the researcher, since there is no water purification system, it is only chlorinated and piped. The state ranks 31st out of 32 in wastewater management, with only 3 percent of the water being withdrawn being treated, she reiterated. There is a lack of vigilance and monitoring to avoid residual discharges and impunity.

In addition, she indicated that there is urban growth without planning, based on the characteristics of the territory, granting permits in protected natural areas, or areas at risk of flooding. There is poor management of solid waste. There is only one sanitary landfill, in Mérida, and many open-air dumps.

In addition to this, Sofía Lázaro warned, there is water contamination, fecal confirmations, heavy metals, agrochemicals that affect human health and the environment have been found; the state ranks first in kidney and cancer diseases and this “can be understood because the water we are drinking is full of pathogens that can affect us.”

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