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Yucatán’s sustainability crisis: State ranks near bottom in new report

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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.
A fire started by agricultural workers to clear fields of debris burns out of control in Yucatán. Photo: Courtesy

Yucatán ranks amongst the worst states in Mexico according to a new report on sustainability. 

The findings were published in a study conducted by Mexico’s national competitiveness institute, IMCO.

The institute gave Yucatán a score of 18.87 out of 100 for its environmental agenda, placing it above only the neighboring states of Campeche and Quintana Roo. 

The study ranked the performance of each Mexican state’s ability to manage its natural resources and environment. Yucatán’s poor ranking ultimately comes down to its poor maintenance of its aquifers, as well as rampant deforestation, the study’s authors said. 

There has also been increasing concern that Yucatán’s millennia-old tradition of slash and burn agriculture may no longer be viable due to increasingly dry conditions. The practice consumes hundreds of hectares of jungle every year and often rages out of control bringing smoke and destruction to nearby fields and communities.

The growth of Mérida, the state’s largest city and capital, has caused concern for many residents who say that the rapid expansion is putting too much pressure on the city’s infrastructure and natural resources.

Earlier: Climate change could put Yucatán’s water supply in jeopardy

Yucatán’s poor scorecards on the IMCO ranking comes as a blow to the administration of Gov. Mauricio Vila Dosal, who has made a point of playing up his environmental credentials. 

Over the past few years, the government has presented a series of environmental initiatives designed to promote sustainability. But critics argue that these measures are just for show.

“They love to come out and make these grand promises and say that they are doing this and that. But business and political interests always trump environmental concerns,” said environmentalist and lawyer Carlos Escoffié.

The report is likely to bring even further scrutiny to the Tren Maya rail project, which has been labeled by its critics as a dangerous engine of deforestation. 

In February, a state judge ordered a halt to construction after several indigenous groups presented a complaint that argued that the project was causing unacceptable levels of environmental destruction

“All activity which involves the cutting down of trees or puts native fauna in harm’s way must immediately stop,” said a spokesperson for nongovernmental organization Indignación, Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos.

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