The Cancún Conference Brings Further Pollution to an Over-stressed Resort

“The tropical storm season lasts from May to December, the rainy season extends into January with peak precipitation in September. February to early May tend to be drier with only occasional scattered showers. Cancún is located in one of the main Caribbean hurricane impact areas.” (Wikipedia)

Following the Copenhagen fiasco a year ago, the upmarket resort of Cancún was chosen as the next venue for the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The Conference has just begun in the Mexican resort of Cancún, on the Yucatán Peninsula. So far the news media have not shown much interest but doubtless this situation will change as the 12-day conference progresses. We are told that modest agreements are likely. Fine. But if you look at the history of Cancún, and if you are not a pampered participant, you may be amazed and perhaps a little upset that the organisers chose this developmentally challenged resort to hold its conference and to further contaminate with the effusions and effluent of its estimated 25,000 attendees.

Cancún, a virtually deserted tropical island, with its storm season lasting from May to December, was decreed as a resort development area by the dictatorial Mexican PRI government in 1970 as part of its ultimately very profitable tourist development strategy. The government provided the infrastructure and financed many of the hotels which sprang up. It became very popular, especially with vacationers from USA and Europe. Today the population is 700,000 but, as we shall see below, in the past 40 years the island has suffered severely from overdevelopment and faulty planning as well as from 2 disastrous (but predictable) tropical hurricanes, in 1988 and 2005.

“The unchecked development of Cancun has considerably
contaminated its lagoon in the west. Parts of the lagoon have been
destroyed to make room for a major highway systems. In addition,
new strains of vegetation species have appeared which can not be
cultivated in the indigenous environment. This vegetation often
washes onto the road producing foul smells which negatively affect
tourist perceptions. A nearby rainforest has lost some 60,000
hectares simply as a result of the development plans. The erection
of hotels and restaurants not only destroys wildlife in the rainforests
but hotel owners are also forced to import exotic plants to replace
those which they have carelessly destroyed. It is also apparent that
in the areas where hotels were constructed, the surrounding environment suffered far more environmental damage during Hurricane Gilbert than those areas that were preserved in their natural state.

“The construction of 120 hotels in 20 years has also endangered
breeding areas for marine turtles, as well as causing large numbers
of fish and shellfish to be depleted or disappear just offshore. In order
to prevent further environmental destruction many Mexican conservation groups have lobbied the Mexican government to regulate the development of Cancun and other tourist hot spots.”
(From a 1990s “TED” report. This was part of the Mandala Projects of the American University.)

On a more scientific level, the report by Peter V. Wiese (‘Environmental Impact of Urban and Industrial Development. A Case History: Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico) is also well worth reading.

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