The current urban archetype has generated environmental problems and inequality, reveals
The uncontrolled urban expansion of the city of Mérida has generated various economic, social, and environmental costs, in addition to environmental problems and inequality; “The current model is not financially sustainable in the long term,” reveals the report The cost of urban expansion in Mexico, carried out by the Coalition for Urban Transformation in Mexico together with the Mexico World Resources Institute (WRI Mexico, for its acronym in English).
The research analyzes the cost of peripheral urban expansion in eight metropolitan areas: Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana, Reynosa, Mérida, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, and Culiacán and recommends basic principles to consider to move towards planning that respects the environment. inclusive and in which urban economic potential is maximized.
After analyzing various indicators, the document shows that the current model of urban development in these cities is not financially viable in the long term due to insufficient municipal collection and higher costs of travel and provision of services in cities with greater dispersion and vulnerability to climate change.
The report reveals that Mexican cities, including Mérida, face several challenges that hinder their transformation towards a compact, connected, coordinated, clean, and equitable urban model: uncontrolled urban expansion, pollutant emissions, and inequality in access to employment and urban equipment.
“Urban expansion in the last twenty years has been verified more markedly in intermediate cities, especially in rural localities in metropolitan areas, with growth four times higher than that of urban localities in those cities,” he emphasizes.
In turn, according to the research, the expansion has brought with it an increase in the emissions of atmospheric pollutants – mainly PM10 and PM25 particles – and greenhouse gases, especially in small and medium-sized cities.
Urban inequality is the norm
In addition to this, the new urban peripheries are spaces of socio-spatial segregation, with few opportunities for informal employment and with poor access to urban satisfiers that improve the quality of life: formal employment, basic urban facilities, and public space.
“Mexican cities are polarized: the population with the greatest resources concentrates access to urban amenities and the most disadvantaged are deprived of a large part of these options,” the document states.
One of the challenges facing this expansion is to provide a space that guarantees access to the benefits that the city provides and improves the quality of life of the population; however, this is not fulfilled, according to the report, the most vulnerable population is forced to live in the urban peripheries, with poor or non-existent access to sources of employment, basic urban facilities and public transportation means of quality.
“Urban inequality is the norm. The insufficient institutional capacities of many local governments, the low resources of their own, and the asymmetries in the negotiation between public and private actors, among other aspects, frequently limit the capacity of public action to reverse this model. ”
In addition to negative impacts on the environment, according to the report, urban expansion has an economic cost. In most cities, except for Culiacán, Mérida, and the Valley of Mexico, the urbanization of the road infrastructure of low-density housing developments has a major impact on the cost of housing construction, so it is suggested to bet on urban models with higher density.
In the same way, the analysis of the emissions component reveals that the less modernization of the houses can lead to the use of greater volumes of material and, therefore, increase the cost of this component.
According to the research, the sum of the costs of providing basic urban services and the cost of traveling by families represents more than one percent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually.
In 2050, half of the cities analyzed would need to increase their municipal spending from 48 to 244 percent to maintain the same current spending for housing in the provision of urban public services.
In addition, it indicates that the location of the new homes in consolidated areas close to sources of employment would mean a combined average saving of 5.6 percent in travel expenses, with respect to a scenario of continuity of the current model.
On the other hand, the densification of distant peripheries that is not accompanied by localization policies can reduce the total cost of urban expansion in some cities, but not in all, however, in this scenario, families incur higher annual travel costs, which affects the most vulnerable groups.
“Densification and location policies should not be implemented in isolation, but jointly to maximize their benefits and according to the particular context of each city”, is detailed in the analysis.
These have to be created in a context of co-responsibility in the planning of all levels of government. “For this reason, planning instruments agreed between governments and citizens must be developed that are efficient, transparent, democratic and that regulate the future sustainable growth of the city.”
The analysis emphasizes that urban planning should be the responsibility of all levels of government and, therefore, the development of transversal planning instruments that allow directing public investment should be encouraged. Promoting comprehensive planning, respectful of the environment, inclusive and in which the economic potential of cities is developed.
Expect Major Flooding in Merida
According to their study, the very high-risk area is located in the extreme north
Real estate development advances exponentially in the city (especially in the north) in a disorderly manner, destroying vital green areas to absorb water flows.
All this represents a serious risk of flooding due to the arrival of hurricanes and storms, affecting not only the new neighborhoods but also the police stations, which are affected by poor urban planning, warned Yameli Aguilar Duarte, of the National Institute of Forestry Research, Agricultural and Livestock (Inifap).
According to her research, “Risk of flooding due to extreme rains in the karst of the city of Mérida, Yucatán”, the area with very high risk is located in the extreme north of the municipality with an area of 18,861 hectares, which corresponds to 21 percent of the surface of the city, with a population of 8 thousand 446 inhabitants that represent 1 percent of the total.
The Sierra Papacal, Xcunyá, Cosgaya, Tamanché, Noc Ac, Temozón Norte, Suytunchén, San Diego Texán, Santa María Yaxché, San Gerardo, Misnébalam, Unidad Revolución, Las Palmas, Little Australia, San Gabriel, Komchén towns , El Zapote, Geisy Guadalupe, Pochote, San Julián, Paraíso, Ever Green and San Lorenzo Suytunchen.
Among the high-risk areas are Caucel, Cholul, Chablekal, Sitpach, Dzityá, Xcanatún, La Ceiba, Tixcacal, Chalmuch, Tixcuytún, Sac-Nicté, Dzidzilché, Cheumán, Dzibilchaltun, San Antonio Hool, Juliana, San Manuel, San José Kuché , La Ceiba dos, Las Quintas, Flamboyanes, San Isidro, El Caporal and Francisco Villa.
The largest area has a medium risk. Here are included the city of Mérida and peri-urban localities of the west, east and south, represented in 60 localities such as San José Tzal, Molas, Leona Vicario, Dzununcán, San Pedro Chimay, Tahdzibichén, Oncán, Santa Cruz Palomeque, Susulá, Xmatkuil, Santa María Chí, San Ignacio Tesip, Kikteil, among others.
The low-risk zone is located mainly to the south of the municipality, although it includes the towns of Yaxnic, San Antonio Tzacalá, Texán Cámara, Dzoyaxché, Santa Gertrudis Dos.
Last year, Yucatán was impacted by various meteorological phenomena, which brought with it rains never before registered, according to experts, causing floods in several colonies and police stations in the municipality of Mérida, with the northern area being the most affected.
The specialist indicated that the discharge from the aquifer is received to the north of the city, which is why the manner of storms has a greater influence, which causes the growth of the water level that pushes inland.
The expert indicated that the Program of Territorial Ecological Planning of the Municipality of Mérida in 2006 already documented that these areas are at high risk of flooding, however, it was not tested by the municipal authorities and the areas that experts and scientists proposed as protected areas were not respected.
By ignoring, she indicated, they took the opportunity to make other uses of the land, for which this territory is not suitable; to build various real estate developments, shopping malls, and other constructions, “and the consequences have already been felt.”
According to the researcher, the north of Yucatán does not have the characteristics for intensive growth, in addition, there is a lack of knowledge of the functioning of geographical landscapes and the functioning of underground water flows in karst conditions, which makes proper planning difficult. land use, particularly in urban areas.
All this, together with the deforestation generated by the buildings, also affects, since the vegetation absorbs the water. By removing the green areas, the dynamics change, and these types of problems arise, where the water flows are modified.
Although the effects of neighborhoods such as Las Américas went viral, there were also police stations that were impacted, all for not taking into account land uses, massive construction, and deforestation, he stressed.
“Making the city grow without any control also hurts,” she said.
On the other hand, he reiterated that there are environmental regulations that are not being respected, that are not even approved by various interests, when they are public policy instruments that are carried out with the participation of scientists from different areas who, when evaluating a territory, propose the adequate land uses.
Less than 5 percent of the wastewater in Yucatán is sanitized
In Yucatán, only less than 5 percent of state water is cleaned and, specifically in Mérida, less than 30 percent, reveal data from Salvador Castell González, director and founder of Va Por la Tierra.
Activities in urban areas, the pig industry, and agriculture impact water quality; These have caused the quality of the liquid in the state to decrease since around 70 percent of the potable water usable for activities already has an impact of contamination.
According to the State Competitiveness Index (ICE) 2021, of the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO), the states that make up the Yucatan Peninsula occupy the last three places at the national level in terms of sustainable environmental management: Yucatán in position 30, Campeche 31 and Quintana Roo in 32.
This means that states do not interact in a sustainable and responsible way with natural resources and their environment. According to the study, the entities have difficulties in the availability and administration of water, air, and efficient use of resources.
“These elements have a direct impact on the quality of life of the inhabitants. Good management of natural resources and their sustainability could have a considerable effect on investment and the attraction of talent in the states in the medium and long term ”, indicated IMCO.
For Castell González, the problem is further aggravated by the disorderly expansion of urban developments.
In his opinion, the entity should choose to migrate to an agroecological and sustainable system to reverse this situation and reduce the waste, chemicals, and detergents that we use and reach the aquifer.
The also president of the College of Postgraduates in Environmental Sciences and Biotechnology of the Southeast, explained that the problem is not simple, since the state does not have waters of state competence, but they are of federal competence, which is governed under federal laws. It is not the competence or responsibility of the state or the municipality to review the quality of water in general.
The municipalities, he said, are responsible for verifying the quality of the liquid that enters their drainage systems and its treatment. However, there are no treatment plants. 70 percent of the water that leaves the houses in Mérida goes to a septic tank; they arrive without any treatment directly to the aquifer.
This is a serious problem, he warned, because if we do not maintain the pits and sinks apart, then they no longer have a partial degradation function. From human waste, fats that are thrown away when the dishes are washed, from food, disinfectants, detergents and soaps, and other articles that we use in a direct way, they go to the aquifer, he indicated.
For the specialist, this serious problem has increased with the massive growth of developments in the city and the state, which has been disorderly; Furthermore, in many cases, forest areas have been eliminated and converted into grazing areas.
The municipal regulation, he explained, requires that these projects have treatment plants and a biodigester septic system, but other municipalities do not have this regulation. Also, other developments, known as investment lots, should install their plants, however, many, as they are not part of urbanized areas, do not have them, he said.
“When these developments are made, companies must acquire the commitment to provide basic services, such as garbage collection, water sanitation, purification, but many do not have it,” he said.
As for companies, especially industrial sectors, they must have a water treatment plant on a mandatory basis.
Castell pointed out that a lot of monitoring work is needed, auditors who verify industries and factories in a more forceful way, since they have observed that in verification situations, companies use “emergency strategies”, they buy expensive chemicals to quickly stabilize their sanitation process.
“It is cheaper for them to do it in an emergency, from time to time, than to be constantly operating the treatment plants, if there were weekly reviews, it would be cheaper to operate them well,” he said.
State water law
For the specialist, it is urgent to create a state water law that regulates these issues and prohibits certain activities that damage the aquifer. It is also necessary to change habits and stop using cleaning chemicals, as most of them are not biodegradable.
Once this law is in place, agreements must be signed to share competencies with the federation, the state and the municipalities, so that they can regulate the discharges that go directly to urban areas, and implement a drainage system in some parts; invest in infrastructure and migrate to real sanitation, he said.
He also indicated that in homes, people should begin to reduce their ecological footprint by using biodegradable detergents, soaps, and disinfectants; but mainly migrate to an agroecological system; stop using the compounds that have the greatest impact and opt for sustainability in terms of all our human processes.
The Yucatan Post