Today is Blog Action Day, a day when bloggers around the world all write about the same topic, in order to create awareness about that issue. The topic for this year is water. Here in Cancun, like many places in the world, we are greatly concerned with keeping our beaches, oceans, and lagoons clean, as well as having access to clean drinking water and tap water.
In Cancun’s hotel zone, drinking water is purified but that is not the case in downtown Cancun, or in many other parts of Mexico. In downtown Cancun, residents use tap water for bathing, brushing teeth, and for washing dishes and clothes. However, tap water is not used for drinking. Bottled water is used for drinking. Water companies regularly deliver big bottles (approximately 20 liters) of purified water to homes, at a cost of around $2 USD, per bottle. Mexico’s government plans to have clean drinking water available for 95% of it’s residents by 2012, but they aren’t quite there yet. Recently, the United Nations General Assembly declared that access to clean water and sanitation is a human right. (It’s appalling to think the UN didn’t believe they needed to focus on this problem prior to 2010.)
Cancun, Riviera Maya, and the surrounding areas are popular tourist destinations for travelers from all over the world. Two major reasons that people visit the area are the crystal-clear, turquoise waters and the miles of white sand beaches. And, scuba divers flock to Cozumel for the opportunity to dive the Great Mayan Barrier, the world’s second-largest coral reef. (Only Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is larger.) Over 60% of the world’s coral reefs are in danger, as a result of pollution and bleaching, which is caused by rising water temperatures due to global warming.
Each year, sea turtles and whale sharks migrate to the waters off the Yucatan Peninsula and 1000’s of tropical marine birds make their way to the area, as well. If the waters in and around Cancun were not clean, tourists would stop vacationing in the region, and sea turtles & other marine life would likely die. And, if the fish die, then the marine birds will be without food, as well. Thankfully, the oil from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico did not cause any damage to Cancun’s beaches, or to the area’s sea life. Sadly, aside from the impact the Gulf oil spill had on the environment, the quality of water is declining worldwide. The main reason for the decline is due to human activities. But, most of already knew that man was to blame for many of the problems our planet is currently facing.
Some things that are being done, locally, to combat the problem of water pollution, or damage to wildlife & coral reefs:
- Xel-Ha, Xcaret, and other protected areas only allow visitors to use biodegradable sunscreen. Biodegradable sunscreen does not damage coral reefs like normal sunscreens do.
- Earlier this week, a local tour company, called EcoColors, had a group of around 450 volunteers get together to clean Nichupte Lagoon, in Cancun’s hotel zone. During their cleaning project, they found glass, 6635 cigarette butts, over 3,700 aluminum cans, and, strangely enough, auto parts. Several beach cleaning events, similar to EcoColor’s project, take place throughout the year.
- During Isla Mujeres‘ annual Whale Shark Festival, they have conferences that teach the public about what can be done to help the local marine environment and, in turn, protect the whale sharks.
- On October 17, 2010, volunteers in Cancun will participate in an event called International Coastal Cleanup, by cleaning the public beaches in the area. The clean-up runs from 8:00am-12:00pm and, during that time, volunteers will clean Playa Las Perlas, Playa del Nino, Playa Delfines, Playa Tortugas, and Playa Nizuc.
- On World Water Day, held back in March, Xel-Ha eco park hosted a forum on water & sustainability.
- Other local organizations also try to educate visitors on how to take care of the environment.
- In November 2010, the Underwater Museum will open in Cancun. 100’s of sculptures have been placed underwater and, over time, coral will begin to grow on the works of art. This will increase the amount of coral in the area. And, since the museum will be the go-to place for snorkeling & diving in Cancun, the natural reefs will be protected because fewer people will be swimming near them.
How you can help to protect Cancun’s beautiful beaches and the Caribbean Sea:
- Use biodegradable sunscreen any time you swim in the sea or in other natural bodies of water.
- Recycle. This is not always easy to do while vacationing but, at the very least, make sure you place all trash in a garbage can. That will insure that you did not leave anything behind that could litter the beaches.
- If there is no ashtray handy, throw cigarette butts in a garbage can. Do not put out your cigarettes on the ground and then leave them there. Also, don’t leave cigarette butts in the sand.
- Something you can do on vacation and at home is to avoid using plastic shopping bags that are not biodegradable. Each year, many sea turtles and other marine life die because they mistake plastic bags, floating in the water, for food.
- While vacationing at a resort, try to drink out of glasses, rather than disposable plastic cups. Many people bring insulated plastic mugs to use during their vacation. That way, your drink will stay cold and you’ll be reducing waste.
- And, of course, you can donate money to environmental organizations in Cancun & Riviera Maya, like Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an, Centro Ecologico Akumal, and Amigos de Isla Contoy.
Remember, even little things that you do, like recycling, using cloth tote bags instead of plastic shopping bags, putting trash in garbage cans, or using glasses instead of plastic cups, do make a difference.