Category Archives: Environment

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Court kicks the El Zapotillo Dam decision down the road

By Tracy L. Barnett
For El Daily Post
Photo courtesy International Rivers

Farmers and ranchers desperate to stop construction of an aqueduct across their lands in Jalisco must bide their time for resolution. The Supreme Court removed the case from its docket, deciding it needed more time to study the particulars of the complicated El Zapotillo dam case. The decision could impact similar water projects, but the specifics of this case deserve a closer look.

The Mexican Supreme Court has postponed a hearing on a case that could have repercussions not only for the aqueduct of the controversial El Zapotillo Dam project in Jalisco, but other contentious water projects, as well.

These include the Independence Aqueduct carrying water from the Yaqui territories in the north to supply the thirsty industrial city of Hermosillo, and Monterrey VI, a $50 billion-peso project carrying water from the Huasteca region to Monterrey.

The Court was scheduled to hear arguments on an appeal of the El Zapotillo case by the San Juan de los Lagos Ranchers Association, a group of 800 farmers in the Los Altos region of Jalisco. The plaintiffs argue that a planned 140-kilometer aqueduct that would carry water from the dam across their farm and ranch land to León, Guanajuato, will violate their rights.

The ranchers are asking that the project be suspended under the Precautionary Principle, as laid out in the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Any ruling based on this provision would set precedent with regard to large-scale water projects vs. more environmentally friendly water management methodologies.

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Victory is theirs! Ahuisculco villagers save their water supply

Tracy L. Barnett
for El Daily Post

It was one of those heartwarming victories that can renew your faith in the possibility of achieving justice peacefully. Mountain villagers in Ahuisculco, Jalisco, who had camped out for months in front of bulldozers were finally able to broker a land swap with the sugar company that was threatening their water supply. Here’s how they did it.

 

Church bells clanged, fireworks exploded and a brass band blared as the Virgin of Ahuisculco made her way down the streets of her town Wednesday, part of a procession of hundreds of villagers celebrating the victory of their fight to save their water supply.

After nearly three months camped out in front of  bulldozers that threatened their drinking water supply, the villagers celebrated the news of the project’s cancellation with a Mass and one final fiesta in the encampment as they prepared to disassemble it and resume their lives.
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Ahuisculco villagers ring in 2016 camped in front of bulldozers

Tracy L. Barnett
for El Daily Post

The battle to defend the natural springs of clear water might not only have gotten this Jalisco community to protect its natural resources, it might also have unified the residents like never before.

Ahuisculco villagers see in the New Year camping in front of bulldozers

Ahuisculco villagers celebrated New Year’s Eve with a gift exchange and another all-night vigil at the encampment. From left to right, José Montes, Raúl Ramírez, Andrés Santana and Juan Orozco. Photo: Salvador Ortiz Villa.

Townspeople from the Jalisco village of Ahuisculco have maintained their encampment blocking a construction company from damaging their drinking water source, with reinforcements coming in for the holidays from as far away as California to show their support.

“It’s been very heartening to see that our people are staying strong and committed despite the fact that these are days when most people want to be home with the family,” said Juan Carlos Montes Medina, a local veterinarian who has been one of the leaders of the Committee in Defense of the Natural Resources of Ahuisculco.

The ad-hoc group formed in September in response to the excavations in the recharge zone of the treasured blue springs that provide their village with natural potable water – a rarity these days in Mexico. Villagers just passed the two-month mark entrenched in a roadside encampment blocking the construction site, complete with a tent chapel housing their precious Virgin of Ahuisculco.

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Jalisco villagers have set up camp against the bulldozers

Tracy L. Barnett
for El Daily Post

The Jalisco village of Ahuisculco was one of the few places in Mexico where residents could open their taps and drink fresh, clean water. But an anonymous corporation moved in last September and began digging. After a while, the villagers’ crystal-blue springs ran a muddy brown. That’s when the camp went up.

Ahuisulco, Guadalajara

Photos: Tracy L. Barnett

AHUISCULCO, Jalisco – The grey mists of morning rise in the valley of Ahuisculco, bringing the new day to the roadside encampment where ten hardy villagers have spent the night around the fire, drinking coffee and sharing stories to ward off chill and exhaustion. One by one, reinforcements begin to arrive from the nearby village with chicharrones, chismes and good cheer.

It’s another day in the plantón, the protest encampment blocking the path of the bulldozers – where hundreds of villagers of this town of 5,000 have taken a stand for more than a month to protect their water supply from the excavations of a shadowy corporation that has yet to be identified. Here in the entrance to the construction zone that menaces their springs they’ve blocked the construction with their bodies, building a temporary encampment complete with kitchen, port-a-potties, sound system and now an open-air tent chapel with their beloved “Chaparrita,” the miraculous Virgin of the Ascension.
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