Ignorance and corruption are some of the biggest barriers to improving Mexico’s deteriorating environment


Water pollution is one of the biggest problems, and the growth of tourism in the area prompts the growth of new settlements due to the new jobs created. The hotels are required to have a water-treatment plant, but the settlements for hotel workers have no such facilities obligations or facilities.

The direct impact of tourism is that hotels are being built too close to the water’s edge, and tourists trample the reef or break pieces off for souvenirs, says David Nunez of the Tulum-based environmental organization Mexiconservacion in Mexico.

The Meso-American Barrier Reef System is the second-biggest in the world, second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Activities such as the destruction of mangroves, over-harvesting of key marine species and tourism around the reef is damaging the coral, along with the release of waster water into the sea and the run-off water from agricultural lands and golf courses, which are springing up around the coast.

One of the biggest challenges for David and his colleagues is to change the typically ‘chaotic’ attitude Mexico’s inhabitants take towards the environment, which he describes as one of ‘complete disregard’. A lot of the towns and beaches and rivers are very dirty, and the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve nearby is home to one of the dirtiest beaches because nobody cleans it up – the beaches near the hotels are well-tended to by hotel owners in order to keep guests happy.

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