Posted by: ecodestination | January 16, 2009

Current projects to save the Maya Riviera

Paul Sánchez-Navarro

Paul Sánchez-Navarro

Paul Sánchez-Navarro is executive director of the Centro Ecológico Akumal, an organization that works to supervise and diminish the pernicious impact of unsustainable hotels on the reefs off Quintana Roo. He explains that the recent exponential boosts in tourism on the Maya Riviera have augmented the following issues:

  • More workers and construction to accommodate for rising demand
  • A consequent fresh water shortage
  • Waste (mis)management – many resorts dump their sewage deep into the ground, so that it ends up in aquifers and underground rivers and eventually makes its way to the ocean and its vulnerable ecosystem. Alarming amounts of nitrates and phosphates, particularly from urine, have been found in the area’s aquifers, Sánchez-Navarro told CNN.
  • Higher levels of general pollution – leftover bottles, batteries, etc.

Monetary profit trumps environmental activism for most—mais oui!—so that finding solutions to these problems becomes a tougher endeavor for us. Many hotels oh-so-selflessly contribute money to the Mexican government, meaning hotels are not subject to stringent regulations. Global warming is a constant soldier gunning down the corals as well, although some storms are actually beneficial, allowing the corals to spread.

But never fear, we green activists are everywhere, and ever louder making our voices heard! Sánchez-Navarro, who believes unsustainable hotels are the main offenders, says that the answer lies in collaborating with “multiple levels of government, the private business sector,” and mainstream society in order to raise awareness and spark interest and involvement, to hopefully offset global warming’s effects in addition to that of unsustainable developments. Sánchez-Navarro works with environmental policy frameworks in Mexico and within the United Nations system, in addition to other endeavors.

Also getting his hands dirty is an industrial mineralogist from Ohio’s Miami University, Mark Krekeler, who is now in Akumal researching sustainable waste management with his research group. Krekeler is looking to improve the workings of constructed wastelands (of which Akumal currently has 50) to remove harmful bacteria, phosphates, and nitrates from sewage. Another option for filtering sewage is clay, fortunately ubiquitous in the Yucatán Peninsula. Both projects are ongoing.

It is certainly uplifting to learn about active efforts to restore life and dignity to the earth’s ecosystems. When we look after the environment, we look after ourselves.



  1. Nice article! Nice blog!

    I volunteer with CEA and maintain a similar (but not as good) blog at

  2. Hi Ed! Thank you for stopping by!!
    Good blog, I’ve added it to the blogroll.
    If you ever have anything to add, please do.
    I’ll be checking out your blog!

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