Dispute over water takes multiple forms in Mexico

Dispute over water takes multiple forms in Mexico

By Emilio Godoy

When there is no water, they send us delivery trucks. We insist that they repair the infrastructure, because there are leaks, but they tell us that they first have to do a preliminary project To calculate costs, this member of the Front of Social Organizations in Defense of Azcapotzalco, her neighborhood, reported to IPS.

The Front manages public money to build low-cost housing and preferential conditions in this middle-class neighborhood. In December, a batch of them was completed, which the government Water System of Mexico City refuses to provide service and they fear that the same will happen with another project that they began to build.

The government tells us that each person must pay 8,000 pesos (about $ 350) for the connectionRomero questioned.

In contrast, at least six shopping centers and one entertainment center operate in the area that permanently have water.

Supply and quality problems, pollution, hoarding and overexploitation surround the resource in this Latin American country of 118 million inhabitants, when World Water Day is celebrated on Sunday 22, dedicated this year to the essential link between liquid and development sustainable.

In Mexico, the resource is considered a public and national good, for which the National Water Commission (Conagua) is responsible and is administered by the central government, the states and municipalities, which can grant concessions for its distribution and management, including deliveries to the industrial and agricultural sectors.

Until now, the country's problems with water have not improved after a 2012 reform of the Constitution qualified the resource as a human right.

There are contaminated bodies of water, there are communities with supply problems, said Omar Arellano, coordinator of the Ecotoxicology group of the Socio-environmental Observatory Program of the Union of Scientists Committed to Society.

Among the causes, the also academic from the Institute of Biomedical Research of the state National Autonomous University of Mexico told IPS, is the fact that In recent years there has been a management of transfers that puts populations at risk and alters water cycles.

Arellano is one of the authors of the 2012 reportPollution in the Santiago river basin and public health in the region, in which they found that 280 companies discharge toxic substances into their waters.

Likewise, this flow, located in the western state of Jalisco, harbors 1,090 dangerous pollutants, a risk to the environment and the health of some 700,000 people who live on its banks. The situation with that basin is an example of what happens in other parts of the Mexican geography.

There is water, but not for everyone

The National Water Program (PNH) 2014-2018 indicates that the average natural availability of water in Mexico fell from 18,035 cubic meters per year per inhabitant in 1950 to 3,982 in 2013.

Despite its fall, availability is not a problem, according to the parameters of the United Nations, which establishes that a country with less than 1,000 cubic meters per year per inhabitant has a shortage and one with a range between 1,000 and 1,700 cubic meters per person supports water difficulties.

In absolute terms, Mexico has an average annual availability of 471,000 cubic meters, according to the 2013 Conagua Atlas, adding surface and groundwater and the importation of water from the neighboring United States through bilateral treaties.

But almost 14 million people lack the resource in their homes. The states where this problem is greatest are southeastern Veracruz, southwestern Guerrero, and central Mexico, adjacent to the Mexican capital.

In addition, there are 34 million people in the country who depend on depleting aquifers to supply themselves with the resource.

The HNP recognizes that minority ethnic groups and women, mainly from rural and peri-urban areas, are the ones who suffer the most from the lack of safe drinking water and sanitation.

Claudia Campero, representative for Latin America of the Canadian non-governmental Project Blue Planet, told IPS that the constitutional reform It is the opportunity to change the paradigm, we want a sustainable vision of water.

Before February 2013, Mexico had to modify the General Water Law of 1992, to adapt it to the constitutional reform of 2012, but this has not happened yet.

Meanwhile, the dispute over the resource between users, communities, and organizations, and the government and private interests has been exacerbated by two conflicting bills.

On February 9, a coalition of organizations and academics presented their citizen proposal for the General Water Law, which guarantees liquid for human consumption, economic activities, feedback from systems, local management at the basin level and the creation of a special fund.

Earlier, in March 2014, the Conagua sent a bill to the Legislative Congress, but its text received a massive repudiation, which led the parliamentarians to remove the text from their agenda on 9 this month.

De facto privatization

Organizations and academics vetoed the initiative because they consider that it privatizes the service, gives the resource a commercial character, prohibits research on its quality and contamination, favors the transfer of rivers and the construction of works such as dams.

There is a risk of increasing inequality. We need comprehensive water management, Arellano raised.

The de facto privatization of the service has advanced slowly in Mexico along different paths.

In the city of Saltillo, north of Mexico City, and Aguascalientes, in the center of the country, the administration of the resource is in private hands. Four private concessions operate in the Mexican capital for the measurement and collection of the service.

In addition, beer companies, dairy companies, water bottlers, soda water manufacturers, mining companies and even investment funds have obtained water source concessions, as evidenced by research by various academics.

The Water for All network, made up of more than 400 researchers and 30 non-governmental organizations, has created a map of water conflicts due to deforestation, overexploitation, pollution and other causes.

In 2013, the volume granted in concession for extraction for agricultural and industrial purposes exceeded 82,000 million cubic meters, of which almost 51,000 million are surface sources and 31,000 million are aquifers.

There is a lack of transparency of companies that have benefited from privatization. It is not necessary to arrive 20 years later to see its effectsCampero stressed.

Mexico is a country highly vulnerable to climate change with variations in temperature and river precipitation, which is why it is predicted that in 2030 it may suffer effects on the availability of surface and underground water.

In 15 more years, it is estimated that the demand will exceed 91,000 million cubic meters and the supply will be 68,000 million, in gap for which innovative solutions are not yet visible.

We want water, it is not fair for the State to deny us access to itRomero is now demanding from the capital's neighborhood of Azcapotzalco.

IPS News

Video: Raw: 100 Mexican Police Hurt in Fight Over Water (June 2021).