Holbox hotels owners cut off access to sewage-plagued island

A travel blogger found puddles accumulating in the streets of Isla Holbox in 2016. Photo: Random Mexico Musings

Isla Holbox, Q. Roo — Access to the island is cut off until 4 p.m. today while an icky emergency situation remains unresolved.

The Holbox Association of Hotels announced Friday they will prevent access to the island, calling attention to a lingering infrastructure issue.

An Association Facebook posting said that it is necessary to prevent tourists from accessing the island because it is in a state of emergency.

“Because of the of water, failure to operate drainage, serious faults in the supply of energy and lack of commitment on the part of municipal and state authorities, it is necessary to prevent access to the island of Holbox which is already in a state of emergency,” stated the Consejo de Desarrollo Holbox A.C.

“We regret the inconvenience that this causes; but today there is no guarantee of basic services for those who visit the island and for those who inhabit it,” the notice continues, in Spanish.

The mayor of Holbox, home to flamingos and whale sharks, told The Associated Press on Friday that the situation is critical.

Previously: The fight to preserve Isla Holbox

Tourists dragging their suitcases over puddles assume they’re encountering stagnant rainwater, but inhabitants of the island know perfectly well that it’s actually something else.

“On every street corner, there is a small sewer cistern,” said Mayor Emilio Jimenez. “Right now, these are overflowing, and the liquid spilling out is urine. Of 81 cisterns, 21 are failing.”

The Development Council meets with government authorities to discuss improved services on the island. Photo: Comite de Desarrollo Holbox

For a little more than three years, the deterioration of the sewage system has the island at risk of severe environmental contamination, hoteliers complain.

According to data from the Water and Sewerage Commission (Capa), the problem began when the drainage system was installed more than 18 years ago, when the population was only 800 inhabitants. At that time, four-inch pipes and 81 collection tanks worked perfectly.

Today the population has tripled, tourism has exploded, and the system is hopelessly out of date, serving more than 6,000 people a week.

Without meaning to, more than 30 hotels near Punta Mosquito empty their organic debris into the sea, or worse, onto the streets.

Holbox’s downtown is colorful and vibrant. Photo: Getty

One of the affected inhabitants is Pedro Gasca, 58, who has a house by the Public Square.

“On June 13, during a beach party, a neighbor came running to tell me that water was flowing out of my house. When I arrived I discovered that it was water from the toilet that was covering: the s–t flowed for two continuous hours.”

A worker from Capa, Marco Aguirre, blamed everyone.

“It’s true,” he said. “This is a result of population growth, but it is also the fault of zero urban planning, lack of maintenance to drainage and forgetfulness at all levels of government.”

According to Capa data, it will take 30 million pesos to upgrade the island’s sewage system.

State authorities in Quintana Roo say they have a plan to address the problem, but locals say they have no idea what it is.  there is already a project to solve the problem, but neither the mayor nor the inhabitants of the island know what it is or when work begins. A federal delegate who represents the island accused the governor of ignoring his calls.

The island’s primitive diesel generator power system has been failing, too, leaving visitors to deal with 95-degree heat.

“Clearly, this is affecting tourism a lot, because the blackouts cut off the air conditioning in the hotels, and the tourists complain about the heat,” Jimenez said. “And when the electricity goes out, there is no water pumping, so there is a lack of fresh water.”

Sources: Associated Press, Sipse 

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