In the footsteps of Quetzalcóatl

The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Los Tuxtlas (Veracruz) is in one of the most rainy and biodiverse regions in Mexico, and includes three major rivers, a lagoon, coastal wetlands and estuaries. It is also a mythical region for the indigenous Mesoamerican nations that live in it to this day, because according to their ancestral traditions, this is the entrance to the underworld, and the place where Quetzalcóatl, the Mexica god of wind, intellect and learning would have sailed to the open sea. The region remained in relative isolation well into the XX century, when its resources – water, wood, minerals – became increasingly under pressure by the development of the oil industry and industrial activity in general. A study undertaken in 2011 by the Mexican nature conservation agency showed that 29,546ha of rain-forest and cloud-forest were lost to agricultural development between 1980 and 2007, which represents a net loss of 29% of the 101,470ha remaining in 1980. It is estimated that 70% of the original coverage has been lost since 1958, though the rate of loss diminished since 2007, to 232ha per year. The combined pressure of human activities and deforestation has raised concerns about the natural habitats and ecosystems in the Reserve, and especially, about water quality and use.  


DECOTUX (Desarrollo Comunitario de Los Tuxtlas, Community Development of Los Tuxtlas), a local NGO, has been addressing these concerns, undertaking research and working in the Reserve with the local communities, local and central government authorities, the Veracruzana University and Minatitlan Technological Institute of Mexico since 2004. Their common objectives are conservation of natural resources and the recovery of degraded ecosystems and habitats within Los Tuxtlas, while promoting the sustainable development of the local indigenous communities and contributing to the efforts of eradicating the poverty, prejudice and discrimination that still afflict them. One of the main issues affecting the reserve is the increasing rate of water abstraction for human consumption, and water quality in the water bodies. Currently, half a million people in the State of Veracruz depend on water from the Reserve, and its use and management is regulated by the state and the local communities. However, there is lack of water quality data, understanding on the chemical and ecological status of the waterbodies, and a clear framework for their management.


In December 2017, DECOTUX partnered-up with Marine Planning Matters Environment Consulting Ltd (MPM), to undertake a study of water quality and ecology in the Los Tuxtlas Reserve, with the objective of establishing a baseline for river basin management plans for the water bodies that form part of it. The project aims to provide a framework to protect and improve the aquatic environment in the Reserve, working with the local communities and promoting integration between water and land management, whilst also considering economic and social priorities for setting environmental objectives. One of the main objectives of the project is to contribute towards an evidence-based approach to the management of water resources in the Reserve, while promoting the active involvement of stakeholders, especially the indigenous communities, the local and national government and the state-owned water company.


Daniel Bastreri


Marine Planning Matters Environment Consulting Ltd


Would you like to know more and get involved? You are welcome to get in touch with DECOTUX and MPM: