The Mexican Government issued a total of a dozen decrees to abolish existing closures in more than half of the country's hydrological basins, for this reason, researchers and academics on water and environment issues urged President Enrique Peña Nieto to repeal them, since they anticipate that the vital liquid could be delivered to different industries including mining, real estate, fracking, breweries, soft drinks, among others.
To start with, what is a closed zone? According to the federal government itself, they are “specific areas of hydrological regions, hydrological basins or aquifers, in which water uses in addition to those legally established are not authorized and these are controlled through specific regulations, due to the deterioration of water in quantity or quality, due to the effect on hydrological sustainability, or due to damage to surface or underground water bodies ”.
But on June 5, within the framework of World Environment Day, the Mexican president signed ten decrees to eliminate the closures of 300 basins and the action was presumed as a "water reserve for environmental use", even today, one day After national media released the news, the National Water Commission (Conagua) issued a statement in which it assured that “in no way do they grant benefits to any individual, on the contrary, they will allow to preserve the environment and guarantee water for human consumption of 18 million inhabitants who have not yet been born, in a 50-year projection ”.
However, academics from the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM) consulted by SinEmbargo agreed that the system of closures is an important protection mechanism for basins and when they are lifted, the vital liquid to privatization through concessions is violated.
"The figure of the ban protects the aquifers from overexploitation [...] They want to gild the pill as if it were something favorable to the ecology, when rather what it does is leave the country vulnerable to a deepening of the dynamics of privatization that it has already been happening ”, stated Dr. Pedro Moctezuma Barragán, coordinator of the Research Program for Sustainability of said university.
“The companies are seeking legal certainty that the water offered to them is not withdrawn. Corporations view the closures with great mistrust and are demanding that the Mexican government be lifted, as a mechanism to protect their long-term interests. The urgency of this regime that is now on its way out, for opening this up to the market, has to do with commitments with the large extractivist consortia. It is a very worrying measure and that is why we are demanding its repeal ”, he added.
In addition, both the researcher Moctezuma, and the teacher Roberto Constantino Toto, professor-researcher of the Department of Economic Production of the same university, questioned that in the decrees that put an end to the closures of the Santiago River, the Ameca River, the Jalisco Coast , from Costa Grande de Guerrero, from Costa Chica de Guerrero, from San Fernando Soto la Marina, from Río Pánuco, from Río Papaloapan, from Río Actopan and Río Antigua, and Grijalva-Usumacinta, the human right to water is not taken into account , established in the Fourth Article of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States that literally says:
“Everyone has the right to access, disposal and sanitation of water for personal and domestic consumption in a sufficient, healthy, acceptable and affordable way. The State will guarantee this right and the Law will define the bases, supports and modalities for the access and equitable and sustainable use of water resources, establishing the participation of the Federation, the federative entities and the municipalities, as well as the participation of the citizens to the achievement of said ends ”.
In this regard, Constantino Toto declared that “behind an apparently technical and neutral decision, like this one, constitutional precepts of human rights are violated. There are also important economic implications and dispossession implications ”.
For his part, Moctezuma Barragán stated that one of his concerns lies in the fact that the decrees establish national surface water reserve zones not only for domestic and environmental purposes, but also for the urban public, which, he warned, opens the door to that the governors of the different states decide to assign any use to water, including industrial use.
“The Governors can assign any use [to the vital liquid], such as urban public use, even industrial use. It is a very open mechanism that does not guarantee the human right to water. The concession is opened to public-private associations as the governors who have been in privatization dynamics such as Baja California, Coahuila, Puebla, Veracruz, etc. have already been doing, ”he said.
The mining, real estate, fracking industries, as well as soft drinks and breweries and all those that require large volumes of water to carry out their tasks, they said, would benefit from the dozen decrees that leave basins in all parts of the country defenseless. the Mexican Republic.
Meanwhile, the Mexican population in general - in the medium term - and indigenous communities - in the near future - would be affected by the low availability of the vital liquid, the experts indicated. They also criticized that the action is carried out when the six-year term is already in its final phase, since the effects could be noticed until the next administration.
“The country does not require an additional ingredient of social tension like this. It gives me the impression that it is done at the last minute so that the costs involved in such an unpopular decision fall on the next administration ”, predicted Constantino Toto.
It should be noted that according to the Alliance Against Fracking, fracturing a single well requires between 9 and 29 million liters of water. The interactive portal Agua.org indicates that in the case of mining, during 2014 it consumed around 437 million cubic meters of the vital liquid.
In addition, the study “Appropriation of water, environment and obesity. The impacts of the bottled beverage business in Mexico ”, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) estimated that the conglomerate of titles that only until 2012 served the various bottling plants of Coca Cola Mexico, added a concession volume close to 33.7 million cubic meters per year. Brewers are not far behind, for example, a recent case is Constellation Brands that will require 20 million cubic meters of water annually.
“This measure makes agrarian nuclei vulnerable to the dispossession of their waters and gives great power to businesses and governors to establish concessions as they have already done with companies that are predatory and that seek to make water a profit mechanism. ”, Supported Moctezuma Barragán.
In the same sense, Constantino Toto remarked that there is inequality when making decisions of this caliber, since small agrarian communities do not have the same power as large corporations.
“If there is an inconsiderate use of nature's heritage, the immediate losers are agrarian communities and indigenous communities. In the medium term, we are all because there could be a factious use of this type of institutional instruments that would attract corporations whose sole objective is to increase the profitability of their investments ”. commented.
Against this background, Moctezuma Barragán called for a General Water Law to be discussed and approved to prevent situations such as the one that currently occurs. For this reason, he recalled that civil society is promoting an initiative in which proposals are presented to ensure that "water mismanagement is corrected" in Mexico, including:
–Incorporate citizen participation.
–To put a stop to bad practices, corruption and impunity.
–Implement a master plan where the human right to water is guaranteed as a priority and the master plans are binding.
–Elaborate protection decrees in areas of extreme water stress, in order to protect bodies of water from exploitation that goes against human right.
By Ivette Lira