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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

A plea to end Mérida’s days of unchecked growth

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Mérida’s urban sprawl continues to grow far beyond the cities boundaries. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

A new report, “The Costs of Urban Expansion in Mexico,” has found that Mérida’s strategy for growth is alarmingly deficient.

The study — which also looked at other growing mid-sized metropolitan areas in the country, such as Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Reynosa, and Culiacán — recommends the development of a concrete growth strategy based on real needs rather than market speculation. 

The most problematic issues facing Mérida, according to the report, include public transit, deforestation, climate change, poor water quality, and socioeconomic marginalization. 

“The growth that Mérida has experience over the past 20 years is simply not sustainable and will likely result in worsening environmental and social problems,” said Pablo Lazo, co-author of the report.

Aside from environmental and social dangers, the authors of the report also warned that the cost of delivering public services to Mexico’s ever-expanding cities now exceeds 1% of national GDP. 

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Though most metropolitan areas in Mexico, Mérida included, do in fact have growth strategies (at least on paper) their recommendations typically take a back seat to short-term profits. 

Even when legally binding rules or bylaws are broken by developers, more often than not, issues are settled behind closed doors, making way for cronyism and corruption.

Earlier this year, a court in Yucatán recently found that the Urban Center shopping plaza was built despite not meeting zoning requirements. The shopping center continues to operate and authorities have yet to intervene.

The skirting of the law and ruling by judges also extends to projects developed and promoted by the government itself. The most blatant example is that of the Mayan Train rail project, which was ordered to permanently halt construction by a judge in Yucatán, but continues on anyway.

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