By Richard Fetzer
The white-sand beaches and breathtakingly translucent sea at Cancun, Mexico conceal alarming secrets. This tropical destination sought out by so many vacationers has had to pay a heavy price for its booming tourist economy; and like many who have stood gawking at the delightful shades of blue that envelop the shoreline of this paradise, I found this difficult to believe. I visited Cancun in March of 2012 and I did not realize how the environment there has been affected by the countless luxury resorts.
Everyone that I told about my trip had concerns about drug lords and sickness brought on by drinking the water. The drinking water was an apparent problem, given the enormous bottles of water that were left in our room every day. This made me think that if the drinking water was so bad, what must the salt water be like. Still, after seeing the sea outside our hotel and the lagoon on the other end of the peninsula, I could see no visible signs of distress.
The first major environmental problem that Cancun faces is sewage. Many hotels dispose of their sewage illegally, dumping it into lagoons or abandoned quarries, allowing this waste to enter the ground water. The local residents are to blame, as well. Many Mexicans have flocked to Cancun with hope of work. They live in shantytowns that dispose their waste directly into the lagoons. The poor in Cancun are very visible. They hover around the resorts trying to sell souvenirs and keep-sakes.
Another problem Cancun has is storm water. Eighty percent of Cancun is covered in pavement, leaving the water with nowhere to go. I saw this one day after a little storm. It only showered for a few minutes, but much of the water was left in large puddles all over the town. It quickly went stagnant.
One problem that I could not see, but is not difficult to believe is the garbage build up that has occurred in the surrounding areas. The hundreds of resorts produce more garbage waste then Cancun can possibly handle. As a result, much of it is being burned, while even more is being dumped carelessly into quarries.
I did have fun on my trip, but after learning so much about the environmental tolls that Cancun has had to bear as a result of tourism, I do not think that I will be returning anytime soon. The local residents are only going to continue suffering as more hotels are built. Regulations exist, but apparently cannot keep up.