Published On: Fri, Jan 19th, 2018

OPINION: Uncontrolled development turns Tulum into an environmental time bomb

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White sand beaches. Yoga retreats. Mayan ruins. The Mexican beach town of Tulum is sold as an eco-chic paradise where you can disconnect from the stresses of modern life.

A closer look reveals a dark underbelly.

When activist Carlos Meade moved from Mexico City to the Caribbean coast in Quintana Roo state in the early 1980s, it was largely untouched. Turtles made their nests undisturbed on hundreds of miles of empty beaches stretching from the city of Cancun to the border with Belize, lined with mangroves that gave way to virgin forests. A unique system of underground rivers channelled water from across the Yucatan peninsula to the Caribbean Sea, where the second-longest coral reef in the world snaked down the coast to the waters of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

Since then the story of the Riviera Maya has been one of turbo-charged, chaotic growth.

Mexican government statistics show that 4.7 million tourists visited the region in 2016, roughly equivalent to the population of Ireland, and migrant workers from Mexico’s poorest areas have flocked to the region in search of work.

Meade is the director of Yaxché, Tree of Life, an NGO that is part of the Sustainable Tulum Network made up of civil society organisations working to protect the environment.

The issues discussed at their weekly meetings are terrifying: uncontrolled development destroying forests and mangroves, untreated sewage polluting the water table and the sea, illegal dumping grounds springing up on the outskirts of town. The problems are massive, and the activists are unequivocal in where the blame lies.

“The chaos stems from a deficient legal framework, but most of all the lack of ability and political will of the authorities,” said Meade, adding that unscrupulous developers have been able to take advantage of Mexico’s corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy.


Click here for full article by Jack Guy on




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