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Holbox Island


Conservation benefit: Reduced pollution from untreated sewage; replanting of deforested 2.5-acre area

Community benefit: Toilet facilities with rainwater collection and storage system and solar-powered water treatment system

Date Approved: 02.2017


This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

Holbox Island is a slender bit of land off Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, where nutrient-rich currents from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean merge. Flamingos, pelicans, frigatebirds, least terns, and many other birds frequent the lagoon between the island and the mainland. Manatees, sea turtles (leatherback, green, hawksbill, and loggerhead), rays, and dolphins roam the waters. Several species of mangroves line the shore. The area is part of the 380,000-acre Yum Blam Reserve, which is a Ramsar wetland of international significance. The island has about 3,000 residents, but no cars; its beaches and streets are all white sand. 

Because the island is one of the few places to snorkel with whale sharks, tourists are flocking there. As a result, pollution from solid waste and sewage has become a problem. For example, there are no sanitary facilities at the solid waste facility, so the workers there must use the fields. This creates a health hazard for people and wildlife.

A Seacology grant will fund, through our nonprofit partner, Casa Wayuu, bathrooms and a solar-powered waste treatment system at the facility. Rainwater will be collected, filtered, and stored for use in the lavatories. Treated water will be used in replanting a deforested area nearby with native species, including Geiger tree, thatch chit, kuka palm, sea grape, spider lily, and cocoplum.

Project Updates

June 2020

No one has been allowed to enter the island since March. The government has not yet followed through on its obligation to clear the site of trash and separate recyclables. According to field representative Marisol Rueda Flores, the delay is due in part to changes in government.

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May 2019

Because not all of the funds earmarked for solar power were needed, some of the money will be used instead for lids on the waste bins. Replanting will continue as soon as the nursery and reforestation site is completely free of solid waste.

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December 2018

Replanting was begun in the spring, and more plants are ready to be put in the ground.

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May 2018

Rainwater harvesting tanks, pumps, filters, and the solar energy system have been installed. Some replanting was done in the spring; the program will be resumed when the rainy season starts in September.

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January 2018

Fires at the project site delayed the start of this project, but the site is now ready and necessary equipment (pumps, filters, solar) has been purchased. Installation of the treatment equipment, as well as replanting, are scheduled for January and February.

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May 2017

Staff from our nonprofit partner, Casa Wayuu, have gone to the site to meet with federal and municipality authorities, a treatment plant expert, environmental supervisor, representative of the local community, and a nursery tree and reforestation expert.

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