Tourism consuming Mexico

Increasing uncontrolled tourism in Mexico is limiting the future of its unique beaches. Holbox is a perfect example of tourism consuming Mexico

Photo: Holbox Island - File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 06/09/2017 17:00 Berenice González Durand Actualizada 17:16
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On the surface, piña coladas and sunglasses, underneath, plastic bottles and organic waste suffocating ecosystems. Tourism industry is responsible for the accelerated and chaotic urbanization of these areas contributing to the pollution of marine ecosystems.

Mexico has a coastline extension of 11,122 kilometers (6911 miles) and several of its beaches are internationally famous. They are part of the main attractions of Mexico's tourism industry, generating almost 9% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country, yet the negative impact on the environment and local communities is undeniable.

For Miguel Rivas, Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from the Institute of Ecology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México abbreviated UNAM) the main problem of the tourist industry and of the urbanization of the coasts is waste disposal or waste management.

Plastic is the most common waste found in the oceans, in fact, an estimate by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicates that by 2050 there will be more plastic residue than fish in the seas. Each year about 10 million tons of plastic residue end in the ocean resulting in the integration of tiny plastic particles into fish and crustaceans food chains.

According to Rivas, the risk of emerging non-biodegradable materials in the oceans increases when neighboring populations exceed their capacity.

This is very clear in Mexico's main tourist centers, such as the Yucatan peninsula and the California peninsula. Places like Cozumel have been affected by the constant transit of cruises causing higher sea temperature and damaging the corals. However, Holbox Island is the most critical case.

"Holbox is a small island where all the effects of the tourism industry are seen altogether. It is a microcosm that shows a system of saturated sewage, plastic residue and in general a collection of materials that are consumed and abandoned."

Holbox is located in the northern area of Quintana Roo. Its impact on the tourist industry is relatively proportional to the amount of garbage it generates. It is estimated that tourists produce about 360 tons of garbage per month, a figure that has increased more than 500% in the last decade.


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