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New pig farm threatens cenotes and indigenous communities in Yucatán

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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.
Over the past 10 years, Yucatán has become one of the largest pork producers in Mexico. Photo: Courtesy.

Environmentalists argue that the construction of a large industrial pig farm within Yucatán’s Cenote Ring could create disastrous amounts of contaminants. 

The proposed pig farm near the town of Homún would produce more excrement than the entire population of Tijuana, according to Greenpeace.

Because the land in Yucatán is so porous, swine waste often makes its way to the water table before it has had a chance to break down.

The farm would raise nearly 50,000 animals, each of which could produce several times the amount of solid waste of a human being. 

In a joint written statement to the Supreme Court, several environmental organizations expressed their concerns regarding the project.

“The contaminants released by this enormous project would disproportionately affect indigenous communities by polluting the soil and water in a large region,” said Alejandro Olivera of Centro para la Diversidad Biológica Mexico.

When the project was first announced in 2018, local and international activists began to lobby the government to categorically disallow all permits. 

Earlier: Over 10 tons of garbage removed from 35 cenotes

Although several injunctions have been filed, Papo, the company behind the project now says that it is ready to continue with construction.

The 120-hectare/297-acre property is within a nationally protected water reserve. The region is a rural destination known for a network of underground swimming holes that the Maya consider sacred.

Pig farms dotting the landscape in southeast Yucatán. Photo: Courtesy

Several nearby communities also depend on eco-tourism that is driven by the series of cenotes.

Although the factory farm was approved by the state, and high-tech mechanisms to protect the environment have been promised, locals fear that pig farms and tourism do not mix.

On the Yucatán Peninsula, there are 257 registered pig farms, 85% of which are located in Yucatán state. However, up to 400 smaller farms operate in the region without any registry or supervision.

Over the past decade, Yucatán has become one of the largest pork producers in Mexico. In 2020, Mexico became the third-largest exporter of pork in the world, with its largest markets being China and the United States. 

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