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Viva la Bahia! -- Zihuatanejo celebrates its Bay

"(One year ago) Representatives of more than 20 civil organizations got together to form the Movement for the Rescue and Preservation of the Bay of Zihuatanejo."

Wibke Langhorst

It was an absolutely gorgeous Sunday morning, that 29th of October, when 30 enthusiastic swimmers ranging from age 4 to 54 and one excited Golden Labrador jumped into the calm, crystal clear waters at Playa Las Gatas and started their mile-long swim to the Playa Principal.

For most, this was the first time they were crossing the bay on their own power. Donning goggles and a pair of flippers, Enrique Rodriguez Krebs, member of the Movement for the Rescue and Preservation of the Bay of Zihuatanejo, S.O.S. Bahia, and coordinator of the event, pulled his giggling four-year old son Luis behind him on a boogie board.

"We want the people of Zihuatanejo to become aware of the issues facing the bay," said Rodriguez Krebs, "but for that they have to get to know the Bay, and to love it." And love it they did. Under the watchful eyes of two Red Cross volunteers and various members of the fishing cooperative "Buen Rumbo", the children, adults and dogs made it safely across the bay and crawled out of the surf at the Playa Principal accompanied by the cheers of a small crowd of onlookers.

The "environmentally friendly" crossing of the Bay was only one in a series of events organized by S.O.S. Bahia to celebrate their first anniversary. On October 30 last year, a group of concerned citizens organized an open forum to discuss the environmental impact of Puerto Mio's controversial stone jetty and marina project and to voice their protest against the intended privatization of a large part of the Bay of Zihuatanejo. Representatives of more than 20 civil organizations, among them the Colectivo Costa Libre, the Society for the Protection of Animals, the environmental non-profit organizations Viva Bahia and EcoIxtapa, the Chamber of Commerce, the College of Architects and Engineers, and the Hotel Association of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, to name just a few, got together to form the Movement for the Rescue and Preservation of the Bay of Zihuatanejo.

After gaining their first victory in the case against Puerto Mio's strong private interests, the Movement continued to meet on a regular basis with representatives of all three levels of government offering its help in the search for viable solutions to Zihuatanejo's environmental issues. Together with the State Office of Environmental Protection and representatives from federal and municipal government agencies, S.O.S. Bahia elaborated a Program for the Sustainable Development of the Bay of Zihuatanejo which earned them a promised $30 million peso contribution by the Governor of Guerrero and another $10 million pesos pledged by the municipal government of Zihuatanejo. A bank trust was set up to jointly manage the funds and allocate them according to the decisions of a technical committee consisting of an equal number of members from the Movement and members from the three levels of government.

In its second open forum taking place on Zihuatanejo's Zocalo on October 30, 2000, Edgar Morales, member of S.O.S. Bahia and representative of the College of Architects, explained the considerable amount of growing pains that the novel experience of close cooperation between the government and a citizens' initiative caused for both sides. "In spite of the many inefficiencies and bureaucratic hurdles that still exist everywhere," Morales said, " we have made amazing progress in only one year. At least now the government admits that there are urgent problems and issues that need to be addressed."

Funds from the newly established Trust for the Protection of Zihuatanejo Bay have been approved for the construction of a sanitary landfill, the rehabilitation and repair of the City's sewage and drainage system and to a number of educational programs. A recycling program introduced and initiated by S.O.S. Bahia is now being promoted by the City's Department of Public Services and implemented by several hotels and businesses in Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa.

In a small ceremony during the forum, diplomas were awarded to the proud swimmers who had taken such an intimate view at their bay the day before and to 20 members of the fishing cooperative "Buen Rumbo" who had volunteered their time and boats for a marine floor and beach cleanup event organized by the Movement on October 28. Edgar Morales who supervised the event and classified the garbage on an official questionnaire provided by the international Project Aware Foundation, announced his findings at the forum. "The good news is," he laughed, "that the idea of recycling seems to have caught on. While we were sorting the garbage someone came and picked out all the cans and glass!" Morales mentioned that the Movement planned to organize similar cleanup events on a regular basis.

S.O.S. Bahia's festivities concluded on Tuesday at the Archeological Museum of Zihuatanejo with an event commemorating the 573rd anniversary of the first trans-Pacific voyage to the Philippines, which set out from the Bay of Zihuatanejo on October 31, 1527. In his narration of the historic expedition, Zihuatanejo's chronist Jorge Bustos Saldaña reminded the audience that in over 500 years, the physical shape and condition of the Bay of Zihuatanejo had not changed, and that it was of great importance to preserve the natural beauty and integrity of Zihuatanejo's most valuable asset.

S.O.S. Bahia meets every Friday at 7 p.m. at the Casa Marina, Paseo del Pescador #9, and is happy to welcome anybody interested in the preservation of the Bay of Zihuatanejo.

For information concerning S.O.S. Bahia, please call Enrique Rodriguez Krebs at (755) 4 7227 or send an email to bahia

November 2000

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