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- "Scientists don't talk about underground rivers" : (e)merging water and development discourse in Quintana Roo, Mexico
- Amato, Jessica Vernieri
- Electronic Theses & Dissertations
The provision and maintenance of water for the growing tourist and resident populations of Quintana Roo present a formidable challenge to the Caribbean coastal town of Akumal, Mexico. Despite being given much attention at the 2006 Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City, water contamination throughout southeastern Quintana Roo is now nearing a crisis. In Akumal, mismanaged municipal and state-level attempts to "develop" have increased the amounts of contaminated groundwater, untreated...
Show moreThe provision and maintenance of water for the growing tourist and resident populations of Quintana Roo present a formidable challenge to the Caribbean coastal town of Akumal, Mexico. Despite being given much attention at the 2006 Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City, water contamination throughout southeastern Quintana Roo is now nearing a crisis. In Akumal, mismanaged municipal and state-level attempts to "develop" have increased the amounts of contaminated groundwater, untreated wastewater discharge, and unregulated nutrient runoff into the Caribbean Sea. These unsustainable efforts are chief contributors to the overall poor water quality, according to environmental scientists who monitor Akumal's coastal zone. Despite lacking the infrastructure to support a booming tourism industry, Akumal is poised to "develop" faster and more profoundly in the near future than it has in the past 20 years.As part of Quintana Roo state, Akumal is positioned for redevelopment as "Nuevo Akumal," part of a regional tourism development plan that will raise the number of hotel rooms and condominiums from 20,000 currently to over 250,000 by the year 2025 (Basave 2001). Within state-development planning processes, there is a strong disconnect between the economic need to refashion Akumal as a major tourism engine of Quintana Roo, and the desire to limit growth and maintain Akumal's global reputation as an "ecotourist" destination. The urgency to mediate these divergent positions has resulted in the creation of local conservation efforts in Akumal. The growing call for sustainable, controlled, and ecologically-aware development comes from local as well as transnational actors. Some of these ancillary programs supplement state efforts and stem from the actions of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Quintana Roo.For NGO stakeholders in Akumal, these actions have not resulted in greater bargaining power over the choices being made, but rather position NGOs as expert informants to the "real" decision-makers of the state. Seats at the development table are granted based on the perceived authority and expertise of scientists. This perception gains currency by packaging and repackaging NGO conservation efforts as alternative economic investments infused with the infallibility of western science.Adopting the grounded theoretical framework of political ecology, this dissertation explores how NGO claims of scientific expertise emerge and define the routes to sustainable development in Akumal. Through an in-depth examination of a local water conservation program in Akumal, NGO discourses are analyzed as structuring practices that create "authentic," and therefore valued, responses to development. As part of this analysis, this dissertation presents the results and interpretation of ethnographic field research to explore, more broadly, the cumulative role of science, expertise and authority as preconditions for creating local alternatives to state-level development. Identifying and discussing how these "givens" travel discursively through varying cultural and political venues addresses the multi-scalar power relationships that compete within Akumal's high-speed tourism development process.