Mexico: Coastal protection, Aztec-style

There are few green places to take refuge from the bustle of overcrowded Mexico City. That's why the chinampas — floating islands built more than 500 years ago by the Aztecs — draw so many visitors.

At weekends, the canals of Xochimilco in the south of the city, where these floating islands are found, are filled with people in small colorful boats, as mariachi bands and food sellers pass by. But the chinampas serve another purpose. Made from fertile soil collected from the bottom of the city's lakes, they were originally built to grow food. They're still an important source of food today, producing some 40,000 tons of pumpkins, corn and other staples.

Now, 500 kilometers (310 miles) away from Mexico's capital, around the port city of Veracruz, some hope this ancient technology will help with another environmental problem. The loss of mangrove forest has left the coast unprotected and open to erosion and storm surges and means sea creatures, such as crabs, no longer have a place to live — that's bad news for fishermen there. Pro Natura Sur, one of the environmental organizations behind the project, hopes planting mangroves on the chinampas will help revive the area's old ecosystem.

A film by Linda Vierecke



06:06 Minutes


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The television reports and documentaries of Deutsche Welle's 'Global Ideas' media project provide people all over the world with information on model projects which implement biodiversity and climate protection. The media project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety through the International Climate Initiative.