SI 6 – Natural resources: a rich state with a largely poor population

SI 5 – Land

SI 6 – Natural resources: a rich state with a largely poor population

Chiapas has substantial and strategic natural resources in its 73 311 km2, corresponding to 3.7% of the Mexican area surface (10th place nationally). It has over 300 km of coastline, a continental shelf of 67,000 km2, a large water system, and a wealth of flora and fauna.

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  • A total of 30% of Mexico’ surface water is concentrated in Chiapas.
  • The state contains two of the largest rivers in the country: the Usumacinta and the Grijalva.
  • Chiapas has four hydroelectric plants, which are: Belisario Dominguez (La Angostura), Netzhualcoyotl (Malpaso), Manuel Moreno Torres (Chicoasén, the largest in the country) and Peñitas.
  • Chiapas contributes 7.5% of the country’s total electrical production, and 44.5% of Mexico’s total hydroelectric production (1st place at the national level). Source: INEGI 2010

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  • In Chiapas between 2000 and August 2009, a total of 97 mining concessions had been awarded, which represented a total of 1,115,130.447 hectares (15.21% of the state area surface). Those concessions covered 40 municipalities (34% of the total). The municipalities with more concessions were Chicomuselo with 14, followed by Motozintla with 10; Acacoyagua with 8; Angel Albino Corzo with 6; Escuintla, Mapastepec Siltepec and Venustiano Carranza with 4 in each municipality; Cintalapa and Tapachula with 3 each; Chamula, La Concordia, Pichucalco, Pijijiapan, Rayón, Solosuchiapa and Villa Flores with 2 each; and the rest with one per municipality.

Source: Gustavo Castro (Other Worlds) based on data from the General Direction of Mines / Mexico

  • The value of mineral state production in 2010 amounted to 484,998,474.61 pesos, representing 0.26% of the national total production.

Source: Geological Survey of Mexico, Ministry of Economy, 2011

  • The minerals that are objects of exploration and/or exploitation are mainly gold, silver, magnetite, barite, lead, titanium, and zinc, among others.

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  • In 2010, Chiapas produced 17.2 million barrels of crude oil, equivalent to 1.8% of national production.
  • There are 116 oil wells located in the municipalities of Juárez, Reforma, Pichucalco and Ostuacán.

Source: Ecosur, INEGI 2010

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Natural Gas

  • In 2010, Chiapas produced 78,836 million cubic feet of natural gas, representing 3.1% of national production.

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Agriculture/Forestry activities

  • 77% of the surface area of the state is dedicated to agro-fishing or forestry activities (Source: INEGI: 2010). The state produces corn, beans, sorghum, potatoes, watermelon, peanuts, sesame, sugar cane, banana (35.3% of national production), coffee (41%), African palm (78%), papaya (18.7%), and mango. Logging is also varied: woods of pine and other conifers (25.6% of the national production), oak trees, and tropical hardwoods.

Source: INEGI 2010

  • 42.76% of the population work in the primary sector (with a 14.3% average at the national level), thus occupying the first place in Mexico.

Source INEGI 2010

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Agrofuels in Chiapas

Chiapas is a pioneer in the production of African palm and jatropha, oil plants that are used to make biodiesel. In 2011, 42,212 hectares of oil palm and10,638 hectares of piñon (Jatropha) were planted in Chiapas. Chiapas is the largest producer of African palm in Mexico (78.1% of national production).

Source: INEGI 2010

In November 2010, President Felipe Calderón inaugurated in Chiapas the first biodiesel plant throughout the Mesoamerican region. According to the director of “Biodiesel Chiapas,” this infrastructure produces 12,000 liters of biodiesel a day and is part of the chapter on Biofuel of the “Mesoamerica Project.” Therefore the entity would have the capacity to produce nearly 11 million liters of biodiesel per year.

In 2011, the first biodiesel service station in Mexico opened in Tuxtla Gutiérrez and came into use on public transport (Conejobús in Tuxtla Gutierrez and Tapachulteco in Tapachula). In July 2010 a commercial flight using agrofuels derived from jatropha grown in Chiapas flew from Mexico City to Tuxtla.

Source: Fifth Report of Government of Chiapas

Critics of biofuels consider that the land used to cultivated jatropha in Chiapas could be used for food production, thus threatening food sovereignty. They also emphasize that its production involves strong environmental impact and pollution (water, fertilizers, and pesticides).

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  • It is estimated that only ten countries in the world contain between 50 and 80% of the planet’s biodiversity. Mexico is one of them. The State of Chiapas includes about a third of the Mexican flora (around 8000 different plant species) and 80% of the tropical tree species in the country. Approximately 30% of amphibians, 28% of reptiles, 65% of birds, and 55% of mammals known in Mexico are to be found in Chiapas. This means that 44.5% of the terrestrial vertebrate species for the country are present in the state.
  • Biodiversity in Chiapas in concentrated in the protected natural areas. One of the largest of these areas is the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. The Lacandon Forest, the area where this reserve is located, is one of the last remaining tropical rainforests in the northern hemisphere with such a size (600,000 hectares): in it can be found about 60% of the Mexican species of tropical trees, 3,500 species of plants, as well as 1,157 invertebrate and 500 vertebrate species. However, in recent decades, part of the Lacandon Jungle has suffered severe degradation due to logging and cattle farming, as well as due in general to the strong human pressure on land. Many of the species there are endangered.

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Protected Natural Areas

Protected Natural Areas are terrestrial or aquatic areas on national territory which are representative of various ecosystems in which the original environment has not been essentially altered and that produce ecological benefits. The National Commission of Protected Natural Areas currently administers 174 federal natural areas on more than 25.3 millions of hectares (12.92% of Mexico’s total surface). Chiapas has more protected natural areas than any other state in Mexico. 20% of the state’s territory is under official protection.

Source: SEMARNAT 2010

In Chiapas there are:

  • 7 Natural Biosphere Reserves (41 in total nationally). They Include: El Ocote, La Encrucijada, Lacan-tun, Montes Azules, La Sepultura, El Triunfo and the Tacana Volcano.
  • Three national parks: Canyon of El Sumidero, Lagunas de Montebello, Palenque
  • Two natural monuments (Bonampak, Yaxchilan)
  • One sanctuary (the beaches of Puerto Arista).

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Huitepec: “Zapatista community protected natural area and ecological reserve”

On March 13, 2007, the EZLN declared part of Huitepec, close to San Cristóbal de las Casas in the Highlands of Chiapas, as a “Zapatista community protected natural area and ecological reserve.” It is located on the same lands as the Protected Natural Area Huitepec-Los Alcanfores, which was subsequently created by the state government (according to reports) without consulting the local community. Although such denunciations have decreased in the last period of time, the EZLN reports that it has been threatened with eviction on several occasions.

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The Mexican government declared 2011 to be “the year of tourism,” toward the end of “aligning all sectors associated with this activity so that they undertake actions that would allow more tourists to make Mexico the principal destination of their visits.” While the increase in violence rooted in the war declared by Felipe Calderón against drug trafficking has led to a decrease in the number of tourists in many parts of the country, the state of Chiapas continues to be an important tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural riches.

Tourism in general, and more specifically alternative tourism and ecological tourism (eco-tourism), have been promoted as an excellent opportunity for remote, marginalized indigenous and campesino communities to escape poverty. Eco-tourism is seen by several conservation groups, international institutions, and governments as a viable alternative for sustainable development. Nevertheless, many communities are not convinced of the purported economic benefits, and they see this initiative as implying a possible loss of control over their lands and lives. There have also been divisions in communities in which part of the population favors eco-tourist projects while other parts resist the implementation of such plans. In this sense, an eco-tourist project can imply impacts for the community as a whole, as it need not necessarily benefit all the people in question equally and equitably.

The organization Otros Mundos Chiapas affirmed in a communiqué in 2011 that “Tourism affects many things: […] it affects local cultures that are asked to make themselves available to tourism; it affects the waste of millions of pesos in advertising that could be destined to schools or hospitals; it affects through the repression and militarization against communities that do no want these activities and who struggle to defend their lands and territories in search of real alternatives for survival.”

Source: SIPAZ Report Vol.16 num. 4

In the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas, there are several eco-tourism projects already in use:

  • To the north, Lacandon Camp Lacanjá Chansayab, the Parador Vallescondido, Turistical Center Escudo Jaguar.
  • To the south, Eco-tourist Resorts Las Guacamayas, Lacandonia and Escudo Jaguar.

Source: Ministry of Tourism (Tourism Secretary) in Chiapas