Environmental protection

Cleaning up Mexico’s water bodies

The Gulf of Mexico off the Atlantic Ocean and other water ecosystems play a vital role in the livelihood of many Mexicans. However, these marine ecosystems are now in trouble due to increased human activity that is accelerating climate change.

In a country of over 128 million people, the pressure on the environment is immense. There is increasing discharge of plastics into water bodies, sewerage runoff, as well as mega infrastructure projects coming up near protected areas and reserves. Climate change is already impacting food security and endangering aquatic life.

Civil society and environmental activists are rallying communities and other actors in Mexico to do something about the increasing pollution. “MY World Mexico” is a hybrid initiative that combines social mobilisation and advocacy. It has launched a campaign called “Revitalise Oceans”.

Change is needed

The campaign kicked off on World Oceans Day 2022, on 8 June, and involves conducting clean-up of plastic waste and other pollutants from coastal areas, riversides and other water bodies across the country. “Beach clean-ups are a useful tool to raise awareness and achieve a reduction in the consumption of single-use plastics, but that is only the tip of the iceberg,” says Melania Lopez, a marine biologist and environmental activist. In her eyes, a change is really needed from those who generate these products to those who oversee waste management.

Erika Montes de Oca, an environmental consultant from Mexico City, who organised a clean-up in a natural reserve in northern Mexico, says: “The sites of final disposal of solid urban waste do not comply with the environmental standards of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to be considered as sanitary landfills. How can we ask the citizens and companies to carry out an adequate disposal of their waste?”

The clean-up in San José del Cabo had 105 volunteers, among them were labour union members, municipality departments, local civil-society organisations, hotels and a public high school. Montes de Oca argues that more initiatives and actions at all levels remain urgent to address the problem.

Health impacts

Gema Yuridia, a geologist and engineer from the south-central region of Mexico, is leading a clean-up of the Moctezuma River, an important hydrological system that flows through four states and into the Gulf of Mexico. The river is polluted by sewage discharged from Mexico City, State of Mexico and Hidalgo. Moreover, the disruption to the river flow has resulted in flooding especially during periods of excessive rainfall. Residents around it face a potential risk to their health and being cut off from access to basic services.

Since March, MY World Mexico has mobilised volunteers across 10 different states. They have conducted two workshops in which the volunteers are taught about pollution and how they can help counter it. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has joined MY World Mexico to conduct this sensitisation. The organisation hopes that the clean-ups will boost further action and funding for environmental programmes.

Pamela Cruz is the Special Projects Coordinator at Comunalia, a network of community foundations in Mexico and Strategic Advisor at MY World Mexico.

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