martes, junio 24, 2008

Water Shortage in Zihuatanejo

waterfall in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo's water company uses the acronym CAPAZ (Comisión de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado de Zihuatanejo), which in Spanish also means "capable". I doubt there's a Zihuatanejo resident who isn't aware of the tragi-comic irony of their name since most of us refer to them as INCAPAZ.

Some sectors of town have not received water for weeks and months. At least one neighborhood says it has been without water for two years. Most residents have gone without water repeatedly for days at a time since before Semana Santa this year. The annual water shortage before the rainy season has never been this bad nor lasted this long.

Water service has noticeably deteriorated during the last 5 years or so, becoming an acute problem under the administration of our "current" ex-mayor who literally left us dry before resigning his post to campaign for a post as diputado federal in upcoming elections. Seems to be a pattern being set by the past two mayors from the same political party: screwitup beyond all repair or neglect it to death then resign before finishing their elected term to run for another post. "No re-election" doesn't mean our politicians can't jump from one post to another like a grasshopper, which is why we call such a politician a chapulín.

What both of them did was allow tens of thousands of squatters to invade our ecological zones, thus condemning Zihuatanejo to a very different and difficult future than it might have had otherwise. Of course, the municipal administration run by the party who fomented these invasions now finds itself unable to supply water, among other services, to the community at large. However, one of those politicians recently stated publically that tourist developments should have preference over the general community, which of course was met with indignation and outrage by the general public.

Many of us think that the community should come first over the tourists. Imagine that! Putting our daily needs over tourists' luxuries! If we're not happy then we certainly aren't going to be happily welcoming visitors here, you can bet on that.

The tourists that originally put Zihuatanejo on the map certainly put up with more hardships than not being able to shower off their suntan oil at the end of the day. Of course, the "modern" hotels couldn't operate or survive the way hotels had to back in the pre-Ixtapa days. Many of Zihuatanejo's longtime visitors remember making do with spotty water and electricity services. It was all part of the attraction spending evenings sitting around candles and kerosene lamps and playing backgammon and dominos and having conversations uninterrupted by anything louder than a battery-powered radio or cassette player. People today who visit Troncones and Barra de Potosí put up with similar hardships as our original repeat visitors, yet more and more people want to visit those places, which tells me that Zihuatanejo's original adventuresome and down-to-earth type of tourist market is still out there, though many have actually been chased away by our irrational overdevelopment.

But our current water shortage isn't a problem caused by tourism. It's been caused by promoting the theft of our ecological zones by political parties seeking votes, leading to irrational development and unsustainable growth. We've always had water problems, but we've never had so many people go without water for such long periods of time. Downtown usually gets some water every day, but for years the service has steadily worsened, and it seems every month or so there's another excuse why the service is interrupted for days if not weeks.

Zihuatanejo needs to get its house in order and update its infrastructure before allowing any more developments to be built. I don't expect the "responsible authorities" to be wise or altruistic enough to implement a building moratorium, but I keep hoping they'll surprise me and follow the example of many now-successful Florida communities that were facing similar problems decades ago and responsibly addressed them by imposing building moratoriums to allow their infrastructure to catch up to the demands of their growth. Unfortunately, it appears we are instead following to the letter the failings of Acapulco (which uncoincidentally has also been suffering a severe water shortage); right down to the sunken religious statue in the bay that nobody visits or cares about.

Of course what's done is done and now we must deal with it the best we can, which is why it is more urgent now than ever that we elect responsible politicians and hold them, their parties and our government to account. Fortunately, it's an election year and we're working on it.

And hopefully our visitors will give us a hand in the meantime by helping us to conserve water.

¡Viva Zihuatanejo!

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