The economy of Progreso, Mexico is based on tourism, fishing and the port. Although it is highly vulnerable to climate change, it still has no local plan. Photo: Emilio Godoy / IPS

By Emilio Godoy
12 July 2013

PROGRESO, Mexico (IPS) – Towns on Mexico’s Caribbean coast are behind schedule on the design and implementation of plans to face the challenges of climate change, in spite of the urgency of measures to reduce vulnerability.

The country’s 2012 General Law on Climate Change requires state and municipal governments to implement programmes addressing issues like greenhouse gas inventories and adaptation and mitigation policies.

IPS visited 37 coastal municipalities in the southeastern states of Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo, and found that only six had specific programmes, 10 were in the process of creating them, and the rest said they were unaware of the requirement.

“The municipalities are waiting for the federal government to act, because they are completely overwhelmed,” said Lourdes Rodríguez, the founder of Marea Azul, an NGO working since 1992 to protect the ecosystem of Laguna de Términos, part of the country’s largest river basin, in Campeche. “They are doing very little; it’s all pretence,” she told IPS.

“The worst problems are on the coast, where there is erosion. There is a very serious demographic problem, because a lot of people are coming to work in the oil industry, and they are invading mangrove swamps to build houses and using just any materials as infill,” said the activist.

“The oil companies are settling in the mangrove swamps,” she said.

The Laguna de Términos, 705,016 hectares in area, was declared a flora and fauna protection area in 1994. It harbours at least 300 animal and plant species, including red, white and button mangroves, manatees, turtles and tapirs.

Ciudad del Carmen, a city of 221,000 people located 925 kilometres southeast of the Mexican capital, is an example of the uphill struggle climate change poses for municipalities. Start with the oil industry, add some tourism and deforestation, blend in liquid and solid wastes, and you have an environmentally unsustainable mix that fuels climate change.

Mexico’s Caribbean coast is exposed to increasingly destructive hurricanes and storms and to the threat of rising sea levels, which may flood extensive areas, according to experts. Biodiversity is also menaced by the tourist industry, deforestation, intensive cattle farming and oil industry activities.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is forecasting between 13 and 20 tropical storms in the Atlantic hurricane region for the season that began in June, of which seven to 11 could become hurricanes.

“It is a major challenge,” said Itzel Alcérreca, the coordinator of the municipal climate action plan, PACMUN, which is charged with preparing municipal administrations to draw up policies on climate change. “But we are seeking to strengthen local capabilities and the local level is an excellent field of action, because there can be short-term results and spin-offs,” she told IPS. [more]

Mexico’s Cities Not Ready for Climate Change

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