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Saving Mexico

  • Story Highlights
  • Mexico City extremely vulnerable to climate change
  • Rapid, uncontrolled growth having serious impact on environment
  • Molina Center working on re-forestation, ecosystem conservation
  • Great opportunity for rural population to get involved
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By Gisella Deputato
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- From hurricanes to droughts to flooding, Mexico has had more than its fair share of natural disasters.

CNN's Becky Anderson diving in a cenote, a sink hole unique to the Mexico region.

The country has one of the most diverse climates in the world and climate change and rising temperatures can only exacerbate the fragility of its eco-system.

The country's capital is a metropolis of over 19 million people. Sprawling and polluted, Mexico City is, after Tokyo, the most populous urban area in the world.

Mexico City's rapid and uncontrolled growth is having a serious effect on the environment. Its infrastructure is creaking and it struggles to cope with torrential rains in summer months. This is a city that's prone to flooding, a city that, as many experts say, is sinking.

A growing population demands higher water consumption. 72 percent of the water reserves beneath the city are being drained, causing the earth to sink. This presents a formidable challenge to the government.

Mexico's Secretary of Environment Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada told CNN: "We want to work not only in the supply of water and treating or treatment of the water, but as well to work in all the forests around Mexico City in order to capture more rain from these areas around Mexico and then deposit or send all this water to the aquifers in the valley of Mexico."

Away from the sprawl of the city the situation is just as critical. Along with poor water supply, forest management is also to blame for the floods that have put Mexico's environment and many livelihoods at risk.

Mario Molina, scientist and winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1995, grew up in the smog of Mexico City. After working in Europe and the U.S. he returned to his hometown in 2005 to establish the Molina Center on Energy and the Environment.

"In more recent times we have seen these extreme weather events that we can connect with society's actions, but only in a statistical way," Molina told CNN.

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"But we certainly know that Mexico's quite vulnerable to these changes in climate that we're seeing."

In the past 50 years Mexico has lost half its forest cover and Molina has recently joined forces with the Mexican government to expand a 400 million dollar initiative: the Pro Árbol (Pro Tree) Campaign.

"We are working not only in the re-forestation program; we are working on the conservation of the ecosystems in Mexico," says Environment Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada.

"Part of this program is to plant 250 million trees this year in all of Mexico. It includes a surface just like the country of Belgium," he adds.

"Its going to be a very big opportunity for the rural population to get a job to decrease the poverty, to get an opportunity to develop their own business, and to protect ecosystems and to stop this deforestation problem that we have had."

Mario Molina says the fight to protect the environment has to be pushed beyond Mexico's border.

"We have to show by example that we're ready to change, to take certain measures [and to use that] to put pressure, to make coalitions, so that we move ahead of the global agenda, and so that there's a truly international agreement, which is the only way to solve this problem."

In his call for global co-operation lies the understanding that overcoming short-term and near-sighted interests is necessary to avoid the reckless exploitation of the planet's most precious resources. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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