Clogged with trash, 40 cenotes in urgent need of intervention

A state cleanup at Uayma's cenote in 2014 netted more than 70 kilograms/154 pounds of trash. Photo: SEDUMA
A state cleanup at Uayma’s cenote in 2014 netted more than 70 kilograms/154 pounds of trash. Photo: SEDUMA

Uayma, Yucatán — At least 40 cenotes in Yucatán are in urgent need of intervention, and on Saturday, Expediciones Grosjean will begin work cleaning some of them.

In coordination with the Bepensa Foundation and several area groups, Grosjean will carry out rescue work in the Uayma, a cenote near Valladolid in deplorable condition.

“It is rotten,” said archaeologist Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi, who has led previous cenote-rescue efforts elsewhere.

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Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi talks to reporters at Hotel City Express on Wednesday, Nov. 23, about his plans to clean cenote de Uayma. Photo: Diario de Yucatán

Yucatán has about 2,800 cenotes, according to calculations of Expediciones Grosjean, the organization he founded. But Grosjean complains that authorities lack the will to conserve these natural wonders, many of which attract a steady stream of tourists.

The state Secretariat of Urban Development and Environment (Seduma) has spent 15 years registering Yucatán’s cenotes. The 40 that need urgent intervention are filled with tons of garbage, from cans to discarded appliances and furniture. Even more troubling, containers for pesticides are also often left by farmers.

The archaeologist said that in village communities, residents have little awareness of the importance of maintaining cenotes, and have become disconnected from them since drinking water started to be piped in to their homes.

One case was the Chan Sanahcat cenote. Three years ago, when Grosjean’s group arrived, it was practically dry. People stopped using it for drinking water, but used it as a dump instead. The same in the cenote of Tabí, in Sotuta.

“It is pathetic to reach a town and suddenly see that a cenote is full of garbage and there is no money to clean it, but there is money for political speeches, parties,” he lamented.

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But now those cenotes, and 15 others, are clean thanks to Grosjean’s mobilization efforts and the support of the Bepensa Foundation, which owns the region’s Coco-Cola bottling operation.

He also indicated that more education campaigns — starting in grade school — should be carried out for the cenotes, just as it is done with other causes.

“No government has resources for a constant campaign for the care of the cenotes. Why? I do not know,” said Grosjean.

During a state cleanup at Uayma in 2014, in which workers used an inflatable raft to reach garbage floating on the water’s surface, more than 70 kilograms/154 pounds of trash was collected in four hours.

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