Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cancun Beach Recovery Plan

Since Hurricane Wilma, Cancun has been suffering from beach erosion, enough that it is starting to affect tourism to the area. Not only Cancun is losing beach, the Riviera Maya, Playacar in particular, and Cozumel have problems with depleted beaches. A couple of years ago the government and the hoteliers spent twenty million U.S.D. on a beach recovery project, only to see the beach disappear when they failed to implement the recommended "geo tube" system of preventing further erosion. They did not take the advice of the professionals they hired at great expense to rebuild the beach, and now they must pay the price.

This week "el Comité de Recuperacíon de Playas" approved a ten year, billion peso project to rebuild the beaches and keep them rebuilt. One...billion...pesos. I can only hear it as Austin Powers would say it. That's $100 million USD. The federal government still needs to approve the plan, though it appears that they have been involved in the planning already and they understand just how deeply this could affect their coffers, it's not only local economies that rely on the monies generated by tourism in Cancun and the Riviera Maya. If the plan is approved at the federal level, the project should start in October of this year.

I read a great editorial on the beach issue on a site that is new for me, TVRadioRiviera. It would be nice to see that site expand and become "real time" news for the region, I think they've got the right idea. Google Translate does an ok job of providing a somewhat mangled English version if you're Spanish isn't up to snuff today.

I can't help but think if the project had been done right the first time, we wouldn't necessarily be stuck with such a huge bill now. I'm not a fan of the geo tube look, but if it will protect the precious sand, the professionals probably know what they are talking about. Rebuilding and reinforcing the beaches of Quintana Roo must be a priority for the government agencies and it is good to see them moving in the right direction. I'll be excited to see the finished project, like a kid on Christmas morning. (I am in serious beach withdrawal, I must get out of the house!)

Here's a collection of some of my beach pics, enjoy!


Anonymous said...

My understanding (from reading a National Geographic issue on this subject) is that the more concrete structures you place on a sandbar the more erosion you will ultimately cause. If you don't build on a sandbar the beach stays nice as the sandbar slowly moves towards the mainland over many years. Putting concrete structures on a sandbar messes with its natural inward/inland movement.

The hotel zone in Cancun is a sandbar. And my understanding is that they can't really save the beaches out there, everything they try will be only be a partial fix. As long as there are buildings impacting the sand's natural movement toward the mainland there will be erosion.

The good news is that the beaches north of Puerto Morelos are huge right now!

Beth said...

How sad, because you know that in the end, revenue is going to outweigh nature. Let's hope that there are enough people who really care to save the sands and beaches, and that they do so before it's too late.

Beth said...

I should have added...

Do any of the news report talk about Playa del Carmen? I'm curious to know if the beaches fare better with the lower architecture of Playa.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to learn of the new beach reclamation project in Cancun. I had always felt that the beach can be brought back. This is supported by the fact that in the UAE, there are several projects being constructed in the open sea. In is known as the Palm, and another is The World, I do believe. They are even going as far as building coral reefs, real ones, just speeding up the growing process with new technologies. Thank you for sharing this excellent information with everyone.


Islagringo said...

Many people are still blaming the continuous and devasting erosion of our beautiful North Beach on all the sand that was siphoned off the ocean floor to rebuild Cancun. And now I hear it isn't working! Such a shame in so many ways.

Anonymous said...

GRACIAS.. GRACIAS .. for the playa pics. I've been watching them over and over. As you know the Mayan, Caribbean and Islander have no beach. Such a shame. I watched the beach recovery after Wilma. It is such a shame it has to be done again. AND this is hurricane season!! Holy crap! Let's pray .. NO MORE WILMA's.

Anonymous said...

I've recently been reading up on this for my site.

As Rivergirl said, building on the natural dunes causes erosion. The dunes of a beach accumulate sand in one moment, and supply it in another. When structures are built on the dunes, new sand dunes form closer to the sea than they should be, leading to the waves carrying the sand further out to a depth from which it does not return.

Seawalls, while protecting the structures, also cause erosion to the beach. They increase the forces of erosion directly in front of the seawall during storms because wave energy is not dissipated, causing sand to be eroded at the base of the structure, reducing the width of the beach.

Removing natural vegetation to "clean" the beach also leads to sand loss by exposing the beach to erosion from strong storm winds and rain.

In other words, as Cancun developed, they did just about everything wrong to protect the beaches from erosion.

CancunCanuck said...

Rivergirl- Thanks for the extra info. It is quite sad to see so much development on so much of this area's pristine land. Hopefully the fight will continue to stop overdevelopment of the Riviera Maya, but my hopes are not high.

Beth- It's been a while since I was down PDC way, but from what I hear, Playacar is suffering from some erosion and will be a part of the recovery program. The levels of erosion really vary up and down the coast, the more developed an area, the more erosion they've got. Sad sad sad.

Eric- I love those projects in the UAE, very cool stuff indeed. Here's hoping the plan is a success here!

Wayne- It is a real shame and yes, I would agree with the speculation about Playa Norte. I wonder where they'll get the sand THIS time. I'm quite sure it will have some negative effects somewhere out there.

Anon- (I'm guessing you are KW, lol). You're welcome, that was a special one for you. :)

Lynda- They sure did a lot wrong! I really appreciate all the information, you've been doing your homework!

Just in case anyone missed it, please check out Lynda's site, for lots of good beachy info.

Anonymous said...

Don't need to sign my name .. you know it's me.

Scott Bulger Photography said...

From what I have read about the use of these Geo-Tubes here state-side, when hidden under the sand, they don't stop erosion, they only stop it when it gets to a certain point where the geo-tube is placed, therefore stopping catastrophic erosion. When placed on top of the sand to fight more erosion, they are an eyesore and a safety hazard. None of this sounds like a good idea to me.

JoAnne in CT said...

So sad about the erosion! All that sand they sucked off of Isla and it's gone, along with Playa Norte. What a shame.... Beautiful photos!!

CancunCanuck said...

KW- I pretty much figured it out, lol

Scott- I'm definitely not an expert on the matter, I just know that rebuilding and then not doing anything to maintain is just not going to work. I hope they listen to all professional and scientific advice before they move ahead with this.

Joanne- Sad indeed, though there is still enough beach to enjoy now, let's hope in the future there is even more.

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