Cenotes de Mérida without rescue program

Previous authorities of Semarnat carried out a permanent campaign to clean up the bodies of water, a program that disappeared with the new administration.

Yucatan underwater caves. Photo: Courtesy of La Verdad
Yucatan underwater caves. Photo: Courtesy of La Verdad

In the city of Merida and its surroundings there are about 150 cenotes open and underground that present a high level of contamination by solid waste and according to experts a plan is being prepared to clean them up, since the support of the state government is required, but lack of budget, denounce researchers and ecologists.

In Yucatan, there are about three thousand 27 cenotes between open, semi-open and closed, and several of them could have some degree of contamination; So far, according to experts, there is no law that protects them. However, there are guidelines that must be followed for their care and conservation.

The researcher Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi, in an interview indicated that the situation of the cenotes is serious since most of them have waste and the quality of water is not good. According to research conducted in 2016, 100 per cent of the samples showed that there is 85 per cent contamination," he explained.

For his part, Sayda Rodríguez Gómez, head of the Secretariat of Sustainable Development (SDS), in this regard said that "many instances or individuals have conducted a series of investigations, there are specific controls and it has been shown that there may be some contamination in the water from the cenotes, then it is a major concern ".

However, she considered it a bit difficult to say that they are in a bad state, because the cenotes have current or most of them, the flows are different, there are some that move faster or slower and there could exist more nitrogen, phosphate and certain water indicators.

To ensure this, monitoring of all the cenotes should be carried out, which in the whole State are approximately three thousand 27 and those that are still to be discovered, but it is complicated; First, it is best to know them and, secondly, to make alliances to clean them up.

The main cause of pollution is the amount of solid waste that is deposited in the cenotes or in the surroundings, in addition to the same water that runs and arrives impure. "We can observe it when we go to the spaces. And literally, tires, bags, all kinds of waste are removed from the cenotes ".

The participation of citizens to protect the cenotes and, consequently, the water, is important, since according to the specialist, there is no capacity, "nor the arms" to cover all registered cenotes.

"People are an important part of the work of saving, protecting and cleaning the cenotes, because it does not help much if we generate a sanitation program and when you turn around, you are contaminated again," she said.

What SDS is proposing is to work for hand in hand with organizations, private organizations and experts to create a more formal sanitation program and follow up so that it does not fall into the same circumstance.

There are federal and state spheres of competence in the regulatory framework for cenote protection, and not all of them are environmental.

Federal competition for the prevention of water pollution of the entire water table is federal and regulated by the National Water Commission (Conagua). "We can not regulate or manage the cenote water," she said.

At the state level, there is a regulation that regulates the use of the areas surrounding the cenotes to prevent pollution. "The state has a regulation that takes care of what is put 75 meters around the cenotes to prevent, that is, not going to put a dump, a bathroom, and with water, do not use sunscreen or another substance".

As for that, Guillermo de Anda, archaeologist and director of the Great Maya Aquifer Project, indicated that the regulation is weak. "I think we need federal legislation, including all bodies of water, all underground systems, caves, since they are places that have very valuable archaeological remains, natural resources, so we are talking about a part of our geographical environment unknown because people do not see it and for that reason it is despised or less precious".

He added that there has been a boom in the development of tourist cenotes, which has damaged part of them since they have created entrances, rings for light, "has been modified in a little-studied way and I insist, there are regulations, but they are lax and that allow these things."

Grosjean Abimerhi, as well as Rodríguez Gómez, commented that they were present, along with other specialists and Bepensa, in a meeting to discuss the subject and the possible alternatives to attack the pollution problem; this as part of the State Development Plan (PED) 2018-2024.

"Today we are already working on the sanitation of the cenotes and five cenotes have already been programmed; However, we must consolidate it in a more structured program, that has more vision, more expanded and invite more cooperatives, specialists, foundations to join".

Merida encloses natural treasures under its floors and, according to, there are about 150 cenotes registered. Based on Mayan chronicles, the ancient T'ho was built on them upon the arrival of the Spaniards or to subdue the Maya population.

About 44 "holes" are located within the urban sprawl and are private; among them is the: Huopolch (C.39 # 510 Center), El Tívoli (C. 45 x 62 Center), Mitza (Col. Jacinto Canek, backs of Soriana Canek), Ka Kutzal (Parking Costco Mérida, Col. Revolution) , Chen ha (Dzitya Police Station), Hol Ha (Sierra Papacal Police Station), Xlacah (Archaeological Zone of Dzibilchaltún), Kambul (Noc Ac Police Station), Puchil (Sitpach Police Station), Xkakal (Cholul Police Station), Tulipanes ( C.42 # 43A Col. Industrial).

"Many instances or individuals have conducted a series of investigations, there are specific controls and it has been shown that there may be some contamination in the water of the cenotes, so it is a major concern."

Source: La Verdad

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