Some of Yucatán’s treasured cenotes continue to be a dumping ground, the divers and volunteers who clean them can attest.
Cenotes are deep natural wells fed by groundwater, which make for popular swimming spots amongst locals and tourists. They are also easily accessible sources of water for remote communities.
“We have been extremely active in cleaning up cenotes in 16 municipalities and have found a great deal of garbage including items such as discarded toys, bicycles and even a slide,” said Sayda Rodríguez Gómez, director of Yucatán’s sustainable development office.
Authorities and environmental groups continue to highlight the importance of efforts to remove garbage from the state’s cenotes, but point out that civil society needs to play a greater role in environmental conservation and stewardship.
Diver, Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi, pointed out that he personally has extracted a great variety of items including electrical equipment, mattresses, televisions and diapers from cenotes in the region.
This is not the first time that efforts have been made to rid cenotes of garbage. In 2018 the Bepensa and Activner foundations spearheaded a similar campaign which recruited local volunteers from several municipalities.
In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of tourism, cenotes such as those at Ik-Kil and Cuzama have prohibited the use of non-natural sunblock and tanning products. However many cenotes in the state lack proper supervision and facilities, which often results in tourists and locals alike engaging in irresponsible behaviors. A 2019 report estimates that over 3000 cenotes exist within Yucatán state and that 65% of these contain archaeological remains.