Vicente Nolasco Valencia has put his efforts and knowledge to determine what caused the sinkhole that opened on May 29 in Puebla: an immense lagoon that emerged from nowhere that has attracted the attention of scientists and the world press. This engineer from the Autonomous University of Puebla has approached together with his colleagues from the University Center for Disaster Prevention to the gigantic hole to weigh hypotheses and put geological models approved, and although he affirms that much research is still needed, they have agreed that a One of the possible causes is related to the overexploitation of water by industry and agriculture that, like a sponge, sucks the resource from the rich Puebla Valley, where the sinkhole has been opened. “It is a consequence of human activity”, affirms without a doubt Nolasco Valencia.
The inhabitants of Santa María Zacatepec said goodbye that afternoon of May 29 with a fact that left them confused and fearful: next to the house of one of their neighbors, Magdalena Xalamihua, a strange hole began to open, eight meters at the beginning, but it grew disproportionately until, hours later, it became a gigantic concave from which the water gushed out as in a biblical miracle. “We heard like a roar,” Xalamihua said days later. “We thought they were rockets, but we looked out into the street and saw how the earth moved and water came out, which made like waves. We ran away”. The local and federal authorities came astonished to this Puebla phenomenon. The National Guard cordoned off a large area around the sinkhole and the military makes sure that onlookers do not try to cross the prohibited area, because people come moved by press reports, dazzled and intrigued. Everyone wants to understand what opened the gigantic lagoon. Now the scientific reports have some certainties.
Nolasco Valencia’s hypothesis is reinforced with the preliminary conclusions presented by the State authorities after an investigation by experts linked to the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), who determined that the excessive exploitation of water in the area may be the cause. “In addition to the soil conditions that present an intensive extraction of water and that has dragged the clays that are an element that binds the earth, the climatic conditions are also joined, because we had three years of an intense drought that left 35% less water and this year the precipitation is 85% above average. On the one hand, it joins the natural erosion of the soil by human activities and the intense rains that cause that soil that has no resistance to collapse, ”he recently reported. Beatriz Manrique, Secretary of the Environment of Puebla.
In this way, the State authorities contradicted the National Water Commission (Conagua), an institution that had previously reported that the sinkhole originated from natural causes. It is, the organism concluded, “a natural process of dissolution of calcareous rocks, which can eventually collapse or become naturally obstructed and open later.” For Nolasco Valencia, the Conagua report is incomplete and, therefore, unreliable. This expert assures that the official research does not have “sufficient scientific elements” or adequate “technical information” that he and his colleagues can assure that it is only a natural phenomenon. “We asked them to show us the samples they took to know what type of rocks they found, because the report does not have sufficient evidence,” he says.
After years analyzing the conditions of the Puebla Valley, this engineer recounts the change that has occurred in the uses of the land and resources of the State, where dozens of industries have settled, from the automobile industry to the bottling of water, which They have left a trail of notable environmental deterioration, which affects the population, causes shortages and can also continue to generate such surprising phenomena as the sinkhole. “It is a very humid part, where you can get up to two crops per year. In this humidity framework, we can explain the installation of different industries that consume large amounts of water, registered by Conagua. It is like a sponge in the area. And a geological anomaly is created, although more work is needed in the area to determine what happens ”, explains Nolasco Valencia.
This engineer cites an analysis carried out with his colleagues in 33 wells near the sinkhole, in the municipality of Huejotzingo, an industrial and agricultural zone. The conclusions show that 56% of the wells are destined, with official authorization, for the use of the bottled water industry. 23% is exploited by municipal services, including the water that reaches the cities for human consumption and 25% by the rest of the industry settled in the area. 12% is destined to irrigate the extensive crops of the region, mainly corn. “We study those wells because it is a huge extraction that has been concessioned,” he explains. The engineer also warns of a drastic reduction of the resource in the Puebla Valley, as the available water goes from 45 million cubic meters in 2015 to 20 million in 2020. “A technical review of the extraction should be carried out, which little it is done in the country, to determine that those who are authorized to extract water do not use more than they are allowed ”, recommends the expert. Although he reiterates the importance of doing more studies to make clear what caused the Puebla sinkhole, Nolasco Valencia affirms that if the excessive use of water resources in the valley is not stopped, more giant holes may appear over time.
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