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A move by local authorities to control access to Playa Colorada is being seen as a small win in efforts to persuade governments to take action on environmental and infrastructure issues in the light of unprecedented growth.
On Wednesday, the mayor of San Pedro Mixtepec ordered a ban on all vehicles entering Playa Colorada in order to avoid cliff erosion.
It came on the same day that many residents held a protest march to urge authorities to address environmental issues such as nonfunctional wastewater treatment centers and the burning of garbage.
The coordinator of Salvemos Colorada, Almendra Gomezleyva, was one of the people who celebrated the move by the mayor: “It is not the perfect plan … but there are good things, such as control over trucks delivering wastewater [to the municipal sewage treatment plant and] the issue that in the afternoons there will not be so many cars leaving so much garbage at the lookout . . . There are good things [about the decision],” she said.
Salvemos Colorada was founded in 2011 in response to a plan to develop Playa Colorada, a popular beach for bodyboarding. Many surfers and locals came together in order to preserve it. After a hiatus of a few years, the project was reinitiated in 2021 as the virgin beach was threatened with construction yet again.
One of the most urgent issues on Salvemos Colorada’s priority list is the control and proper treatment and disposal of wastewater. “We actually have a lawsuit against the state water system for the contamination of the lagoon and for the wastewater problem. We’ve been in the legal process for a year now.”
In the lawsuit, Salvemos Colorada is asking for a functional treatment center. The current system is only treating about half of the wastewater it receives. The other half is going straight into the lagoon and the ocean at Playa Colorada without proper treatment.
The organization has been trying for some time to have controls in place to restrict the number of vehicles entering Colorada. “It was important to restrict the number of cars at the lookout mainly because of the trash that is generated by all the people at sunset . . . and there’s also the risk of landslides.”
The organization had different ideas on allowing vehicles access. They’d proposed regulating the number of cars that entered or having a parking area farther away from the cliffside and beach. “We wanted control of the vehicles that were entering . . . We’re more or less happy with the news. We’re looking at what needs to be adjusted because it’s not exactly like we’d wanted it to be.”
The official decision this week was that no vehicles would enter, other than trucks with permission to dispose of their wastewater in the treatment plant. According to Gomezleyva, the regulation of trucks’ access was important because many came from neighboring towns such as Zipolite and Mazunte to dump wastewater — without authorization.
Members of Salvemos Colorada went on Thursday morning to check out the new pedestrian access and noted that the trucks were being checked as they arrived. Gomezleyva said she was happy with the new system.
Although Gomezleyva says that they need to give the new ban a chance to see how it goes, one of Salvemos Colorada’s concerns is ambulance access to the area as well as granting access to those with physical disabilities who may not be able to make the one-kilometer walk. Additionally, they want to see how surfers respond to the new action. Playa Colorada is known as one of the best waves in the area for body (or boogie) boarders.
“It’s new,” said Gomezleyva. “We’re still waiting for everyone’s comments to see what’s working and what’s not so that later we can ask for adjustments from the mayor.”
However, she pointed out that Playa Colorado is not out of the danger zone yet. “Colorada is a place of temptation for investors . . . Now the threat is that the governor wants Colorada to be an area for investment . . . that’s especially why we’re interested in residents and visitors treating it like a natural reserve, so that it’s seen as one.”
Gomezleyva made it clear that Salvemos Colorada isn’t against growth in Puerto Escondido: they believe it should be done responsibly. “We’re not against development. We only want it to be sustainable development. Colorada is Puerto Escondido’s last lung. It’s the last green area that we can keep that way for the benefit of everyone.”
El Sol de Puerto
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