Mexico’s Tabasco and Chiapas states, bordering Guatemala, constitute a highly vulnerable region with high climatic risks. However, this area of southern Mexico could become an example of adaptation to climate change through an innovative plan for the Grijalva and Usumacinta rivers basin.
Located 15 miles from its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico, and considered one of the deltas with increased vulnerability to rising sea levels and other climate change effects, the Grijalva-Usumacinta delta is particularly vulnerable to the impact of hurricanes from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, that generate torrential rainfall, floods and landslides with important socio-economic impacts.
What is the strategic importance of this basin?
This region has a very high concentration of biodiversity and ecosystem services, important water resources and a huge cultural diversity.
The region has significant energy resources: over 40% of Mexico’s hydropower is generated in the Grijalva river. Tabasco, in the lower Grijalva-Usumacinta area, generates 17% of oil production and 22% of Mexico’s natural gas.
The region has a population of over six million people, of which over 31% live in extreme poverty and 32% suffer from poor access to food.
Potential climate impacts on the Grijalva- Usumacinta basin
- Food Security. The decrease in rainfall and increase in temperature caused by climate change would result in up to 11.41% loss of productivity for corn and 28.55% in the case of coffee. These conditions could jeopardize the food security of more than 45,000 marginalized or subsistence farming families.
- Increased sea level. Between 5 and 8% of the territory of Tabasco is expected to be lost to this phenomenon, with an estimated annual cost of about U.S. $ 115 million a year, due to the loss of ecosystem services, and production from natural resources and coastal zone ecosystems
- Extreme weather events. During the 2000-2010 period, extreme hydro -meteorological phenomena caused huge losses in the agricultural and civil infrastructure sectors. For example, the 2007 floods in Tabasco affected 75% of the population and had a cost roughly equivalent to 29.31% of the Mexican state’s GDP.
- Effects on the hydrological system. There could be a reduction of up to 5% in the region’s rainfall and 10% in runoff, resulting in a loss of hydropower generation.
The solution: seven priority intervention areas
The IDB has identified seven priority areas of intervention based on several studies on the effects of climate change in this basin. They are:
- Agriculture, forestry and livestock adaptation and resilience
- Conservation and productive development of natural resources and biodiversity
- Flood- and – sea level rise resilient infrastructure
- Water resource management
- Comprehensive land use planning
- Energy: water use as an energy resource
- Knowledge and research
To learn more about this plan, see the following studies (in Spanish) :
Photo: Jan Harenburg