MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - In Mexico City, residents are working to clean up the capital's "floating gardens" of Xochimilco, one of the city's few remaining canals that date back to Aztec times.
The UNESCO World Heritage site still preserves much of its pre-Hispanic stylings, but is under strain from an urban sprawl that threatens the delicate ecosystem and centuries-long farming practices.
Plagued by polluted water, predatory fish and the steady encroachment of one of the world's biggest cities, locals are banding together to clear the canals and make this agricultural area economically viable within Mexico's megalopolis.
One way they are doing this is by supporting traditional Aztec farming methods in these waterways called 'chinampas.'
'Chinampas' are floating beds of farm produce cultivated by the Aztecs in the 14th century to feed the pre-Hispanic city.
"From sanitation, maintenance and cleaning, that's what you can see," said Environment Minister for Mexico City Marina Robles. "And for (agriculture) producers it means that they can continue to manage their chinampas and also the commercialization of their products."
Residents working to clean up Xochimilco hope that a return to the past will help preserve the future of Mexico City's last remaining waterways, and keep urban development at bay.
"I don't know if we will be the last generation to rehabilitate this area," said local farmer Luis Alberto Mora. "The truth is that (farming in Xochimilco) is very productive, and it provides many benefits to us who do this."
(Reporting by Roberto Ramirez and Rodolfo Pena Roja; Editing by Diane Craft and Nick Zieminski)