TULUM, México – Nestled along the Yucatán Peninsula’s east coast, Tulum’s natural beauty has long captivated both locals and tourists alike. However, the Parque Nacional Tulum, a beacon of this natural splendor, now bears the scars of rampant, unchecked tourist expansion. A recent report, titled ‘Acuerdo por el que se da a conocer el resumen del Programa de Manejo del Parque Nacional Tulum,’ (Agreement by which the summary of the Management Program of the Tulum National Park is made known) published in the Diario Oficial de la Federación, paints a grim picture of environmental destruction over 38.3 hectares of this ecological sanctuary.
Designated as the ‘Subzona de Uso Público con Infraestructura Turística’, these areas have, over the past three decades, experienced severe human encroachment, drastically upsetting the ecological balance. The burgeoning tourist infrastructure, including lodging, dining, and recreational facilities, has disrupted the natural water flow from mangroves to the coast, leading to sand removal and obstructing the nesting paths of endangered sea turtles.
A detailed examination of 19 land plots within the park reveals the extent of the damage. Key findings include beach destabilization due to sand removal, critical for the nesting of green, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles. Additionally, coastal erosion and flooding have impacted federally protected vegetation like coastal dune scrubs, palm groves, deciduous and evergreen low forests, and mangroves.
However, the most significant impact is on the nesting process of these endangered turtles, contravening official Mexican regulations. The haphazardly constructed tourist infrastructures have also adversely affected threatened and endangered wildlife, including the elegant eagle, white-fronted parrot, keel-billed toucan, reddish egret, and many others.
The irony is palpable when considering the current fierce opposition to the Tren Maya construction. The Tulum National Park’s management plan aimed to protect these ecosystems, maintain ecological connectivity, reduce vegetation loss, and ensure suitable conditions for sea turtle nesting. It also sought to bolster resilience against extreme climate events, a significant concern for Tulum.
Despite these efforts, imposed prohibitions have fallen short in halting the whirlwind of tourist development. Land-use changes, new construction, and the expansion of existing infrastructure continue unabated, challenging the preservation of this precious natural heritage. This uncontrolled growth, primarily fueled by corruption, involves influential hotel groups and personalities capable of swaying federal and state authorities.
The conservation of the Parque Nacional Tulum must be a priority not just for biodiversity protection but also for preserving the unique allure of this tourist destination. It is imperative to take decisive and responsible actions to reverse the damage wrought by uncontrolled tourism before it’s too late. Nature gifts us its beauty, but in return, demands our protection. Where are the ecologists now?