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SOS Puerto petition seeks to gain attention on urgent infrastructure issues

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SOS Puerto petition seeks to gain attention on urgent infrastructure issues
Local groups are trying to promote programs such as recycling and clean beaches, but it often feels like an uphill battle.

A Puerto Escondido organization has launched a petition in yet another attempt to press authorities to take action on local environmental concerns.

But this time there’s a new issue on the table: burning garbage.

SOS Puerto started the petition on July 29, shortly after two Puerto beaches, Puerto Angelito and Playa Principal, were deemed unfit for recreational use by federal health authorities. It calls for immediate solutions to create “a clean, sustainable, and prosperous Puerto Escondido and Oaxaca coast.”

As of Thursday morning the petition had collected 652 signatures.

SOS founder Andrea Esquerra describes the situation as an emergency. “We’re at a level of emergency in Puerto Escondido with the ocean contamination, the lack of infrastructure, and the lack of political interest and will . . .” She accused governments of putting the health of locals and visitors at risk.

Playa Principal
Playa Principal is one of two beaches deemed unfit for recreational use after water testing showed high levels of bacteria.

In recent weeks, many residents have complained about the health effects of burning trash.

“My nose, throat, head, and eyes hurt,” said one resident who didn’t wish to be named. “. . . I have to keep the windows closed all the time to keep out the disgusting smell and with two fans on high to try to stay cool.”

But the lack of proper drainage and sewage treatment facilities has been the most pressing issue in the city, exacerbated by the population increase in the last few years and no concrete measures having been taken to solve them.

Esquerra sees a large part of the solution coming from community involvement as well as making continuous noise about the issues at hand. “There’s no follow-up because there’s no answer from government. So we have to reactivate and reactivate and say again, ‘Hey, remember this problem, well we’re still battling it.’”

The open-air landfill just outside the city is in urgent need of upgrading for it to be considered hygienic.

On the brighter side, since the founding of SOS Puerto Esquerra has noticed a more active community. In fact, J. Camino is one of those active community members. A resident of Los Tamarindos, she spoke of her experience with the faulty sewage system. “A year ago there were sewage leaks near my house . . . These leaks started a movement among citizens, and thanks to the people’s pressure, we were able to get it resolved after [sewage reached] the ocean . . . There was a lot of unity among the people and it worked. But the authorities haven’t presented any project to solve the general problem.”

However, it’s clear that more and more people and groups are talking about these issues. And with the recent bad publicity from the beach testing (Puerto Escondido made national news reports for having two of 14 polluted beaches in Mexico), the hope is that it can’t be ignored forever. Even as she refers to the situation as dire, Esquerra notes the difference that she’s seen among Puerto residents since SOS Puerto’s founding.

“People woke up. And [they saw that] if we unite, things can be done . . . So other movements started from there.” There are in fact various organizations fighting for sustainable growth in Puerto, such as Sostenible PE and Costa Unida, among others.

Esquerra acknowledges the positive impact of more social consciousness and activist groups starting up. The pressure on municipal authorities has forced them to take notice.

“The most important thing is that the citizens understand that it’s time to act; it’s time to get involved and participate; it’s time to leave behind apathy; it’s time to leave behind indifference . . . We’re all part of the problem. And we’re all part of the solution.”

While Esquerra notes that the best thing people can do now is get involved in community issues, she has her own ideas of what solutions need to happen immediately in order to make Puerto a sustainable tourism destination: “I think what they need to do is stop construction and stop issuing permits to construction for at least two years” to allow for it to be regulated and to have all the necessary infrastructure upgraded for what already exists.

“And then all the new construction . . . has to be totally sustainable . . . they have to have water treatment plants and they should not be able to connect to the municipal sewer. That is the solution that I have always . . . tried to push.”

El Sol de Puerto

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