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Local residents were given the opportunity to voice their concerns over the issues arising from the rapid development of Puerto Escondido at a community forum Wednesday.
It was the sixth such forum since May of last year and attracted about 100 people, many of whom recounted their own experiences with the city’s failing infrastructure.
But the official response to concerns echoed at local forums and through recent protests and demonstrations has been limited. In the wake of marches and protests against continued construction and development while the city lacks basic needs, namely fully functioning sewage treatment plants and proper drainage, authorities have said little.
Yet the situation appears to be worsening.
Heavy rains and a large swell on Sunday opened up the lagoon at Punta Colorada, where much of the city’s sewage is disposed of without treatment. As the contaminated lagoon waters flowed into the ocean, the seawater turned black.
Videos quickly circulated on social media showing the reality of Puerto’s faulty sewage treatment infrastructure.
No official solutions or plans of action have been announced, as sewage continues to flow freely into the ocean, affecting not only the wildlife but the health of anyone who swims in local waters.
Wednesday’s forum opened with a statement by a member of the organizing committee who repeated what has become a popular refrain: there must be regulation and controls before further growth can continue.
“It is time that together we build solutions to this social, environmental, and health crisis that Puerto Escondido is experiencing today . . .” said Genaro Guevara Cortina. “Before expanding growth, we must regulate and order what already exists. We cannot propose more development projects in a city where the sidewalks aren’t even made for pedestrians, where wastewater discharges aren’t [controlled], where 40% of the population does not have drinking water, and where 60% of the population does not have drainage.”
Another committee member said citizens are only demanding services that are basic: “We are asking for the basics; we are asking for sewage treatment,” said Denise Matadamas Lagunes. “It is basic. It is fundamental . . . We are acting for the right to health and our universal rights to a dignified life.”
A resident of Santa María Colotopec spoke of a faulty water treatment facility in Colonia Santa Fe and the lack of action by local authorities. The plant isn’t functioning and has been emitting a smell throughout the neighborhood for a long time, he said, “I’ve sent videos demanding the authorities [do something] . . . Just now I sent a voice message because it smells . . . That smell affects us so much . . . I’ve been insisting on this for so long.” His concerns were met with claps of agreement from a community that is experiencing many of the same issues, no matter the neighborhood.
A resident who has lived in Puerto since the 80s spoke of his personal experiences with stomach amoebas caused by consuming and swimming in contaminated water over the years.
A youth expressed concern over the lack of young people involved in the current movement. “The power of the people is in the youth,” he said.
Denise Matadamas spoke of the severity of the issues at hand and the need for authorities to take action: “At the end of the day, Puerto Escondido is growing so fast that the possibility of continuing to have a space of harmony that we can all enjoy is absolutely getting out of hand . . . It is basically impossible not to see that there is such a big problem. What we demand is that the authorities take action on the issues and seek real solutions, and show us the plans . . . This [forum] is precisely to talk about the problems that unite us, regardless of nationality or creed . . . The only thing that matters here is that there is a problem that is affecting all of us and that hurts all of us. That is why we have to act.”
The forum concluded with plans of action that focused on gaining more signatures on petitions to be presented to authorities, naming Punta Colorada a protected nature reserve, and organizing social demonstrations. The official declaration from the forum will be available in the coming days along with the previous forums’ declarations.
El Sol de Puerto
This post is also available in: Español