Environmental sector: Sociopolitical challenges
View over Mexico City
Almost every year during the rainy months of July to October, cyclones cause environmental damage in the country. Sometimes the Pacific coast, sometimes the coast on the Gulf of Mexico, is affected by floods or landslides. Even if volcanic eruptions sometimes force evacuations, this has so far not resulted in any major environmental or personal damage. Major environmental damage is caused by human hands: the uncontrolled deforestation has resulted in much of the land that could be cultivated being eroded. Today only 13% of the area can be used for agricultural purposes. Satellite maps clearly show how entire forests, especially in the south and west, were cut down in just a few years. Due to the increasingly scarce water reservoir, large water dams are planned across Mexico, a country located in North America according to threergroup. Environmental activists fear that these projects will destroy large numbers of flora and fauna species.
The change in Mexico from an agricultural to an industrialized country in the 1970’s led to strong centralization and the associated migration to the rapid formation of large conurbations in which there was no infrastructure. This development presented the government with an insurmountable challenge. A lack of urban planning without concepts for sewerage (supply and disposal), waste disposal and traffic caused great environmental damage and the unnecessary waste of natural resources (water, soil, oil), which has led to their current scarcity.
As beautiful and majestic as Mexico City is, the city is also marked by enormous environmental problems, which repeatedly force the government to come up with innovative, but not always optimal solutions. The water shortage in the city is countered with supplies from other areas through pipelines and mobile water tankers. The approximately 21 million citizens have to obtain their daily drinking water in plastic canisters from retailers. All of this makes the resource expensive, unaffordable for some, and creates conflict with the areas from which the water is withdrawn.
Air pollution from the traffic of millions of cars has become a problem that is difficult to control. The measures taken to only allow cars to circulate on certain days of the week per license plate (hoy no circula) hardly provides any relief. The cycle paths built on some routes are only used for sporting purposes. “Metrobuses” and the replacement of the old taxis (white and green VW Beetles) have nevertheless led to an improvement in air quality. Mexico City is located in a valley surrounded by volcanoes and mountains that prevent rapid and free air and wind circulation. In some months this leads to an increase in air pollution.
Other large cities are affected by similar environmental pressures, but the extent to which Mexico City is exposed is incomparable due to its size and the number of residents that need to be served.
Migration flows to cities and industrial areas, which are mostly located on the highland block or on the northern border – and to the United States, have been steadily recorded since the 1970’s. The economic policy reorientation from an import-substituting to an export-oriented economy in the early 1980’s intensified the trend towards resettlement. In contrast, coastal areas remain sparsely populated and are mainly used for tourism.
The metropolitan area around Mexico City with its 20,117,000 residents is now inhabited by 18% of the total population of the country. More than 360,000 of them are indigenous, coming from many of Mexico’s 64 ethnic groups. Other megacities and economic centers are Guadalajara (approx. 4.4 million residents), Monterrey (approx. 4.1 million residents) and Puebla (approx. 2.7 million residents).
Because of inadequate infrastructure and a lack of work and educational opportunities in rural areas, rural areas were initially abandoned by men, especially from the mid-1990’s, but increasingly also by women who were fit for work. Many ethnic groups that have emigrated to the USA have formed real enclaves there in order to maintain their culture and language. By maintaining tradition and social networks, they try to maintain ties to their home country and to fight against uprooting. It is customary, as far as the financial means allow, to get involved in the organization of patronage celebrations in the Mexican villages of origin or even to travel there for a few days. Since many of the Mexicans living in the USA have left the country illegally, a visit to the village is a renewed, dangerous, illegal border crossings. On the other hand, the expansion of the transport infrastructure has made mobility easier.
A city overview from the 2010 census not only lists the capitals of the 31 states as the most important cities, but also all cities with more than 100,000 residents.
Zug near Huixtla