Environmental Technologies Industries
||Environmental Technologies Industries
|Mexico Environmental Export Market Plan|
|APPENDIX D: Summary of the National Crusade for Forests and Water|
Summary of the National Crusade for Forests and Water
On March 7, 2001, President Vicente Fox, joined by his minister for the environment, Víctor Líchtinger, presented the country with a new, ambitious environmental program that was conceived for reversing the severe depletion rate of Mexico’s water resources. As the program was being developed, the government confirmed the close relationship between water and forest resources and considered the need to develop measures covering both areas. The program is called the National Crusade for Forests and Water. The severity of Mexico’s overall environmental degradation, but especially the diminishing availability of water, made the program the first environmental initiative unveiled by the new administration.
The importance of the crusade is that it recognizes the severity of a problem that requires immediate attention and stresses that the deterioration cannot be allowed to continue, because the chaotic management of forests and water resources has started taking its toll in a growing number of regions in Mexico.
The crusade is based on the need to raise consciousness among the general population that managing sustainable development is a must for securing the long-term availability of forests and water resources in Mexico. The program calls for the participation of every sector in this endeavor. It outlines responsibilities for both the government and the private sector, and it invites every sector to contribute to developing the specific measures that the crusade will require.
The official information on these sectors, which was offered during presentation of the program, gives a daunting picture of the situation. According to SEMARNAT, the economic loss caused by environmental degradation in Mexico reaches 10.6 percent of the country’s GDP every year. That degradation is also causing an increase in the severity of the consequences of natural disasters at a time when the cost of disaster mitigation is much higher than that of disaster prevention.
Some of the principal problems mentioned during the presentation of the program were that 78 percent of municipal wastewater and 85 percent of industrial wastewater are returned to water bodies without adequate treatment. Water supply networks lose up to 50 percent through leaks in the distribution networks, and 55 percent of the water used for agriculture is lost to evaporation or infiltration because of lack of appropriate technology. As a result, 15 percent of Mexico’s aquifers (including Mexico City’s aquifer) are considered severely overexploited, whereas 12 million Mexicans remain without easy access to potable water, and 24 million live with no sewage infrastructure.
In addition to squandering, another direct cause for water scarcity is the continued loss of forests. That loss has altered the rain cycle and has reduced the soil’s capacity to allow water to filtrate back into the aquifers. Every year Mexico loses about 600,000 hectares of forest, and 40 percent of the remaining forest resources are in immediate danger because of inadequate conservation practices and the proliferation of various types of plagues. Additionally, over 20 million hectares of soils have lost between 40 percent and 60 percent of their capacity to retain water because of erosion, fires, and other degradation processes.
The National Crusade for Forests and Water has identified the most critical regions suffering water pollution and deforestation. Those regions will be the central focus of the crusade and are where most actions and investment will be concentrated.
Water Pollution Caused by Wastewater Discharges
SEMARNAT has identified 15 basins that receive the largest quantities of polluting discharges. Investments toward cleaning those basins and enforcing regulations will be encouraged. The basins are Moctezuma, Papaloapan, Jamapa, Bravo-San Juan, Soto la Marina, Atoyac, Lerma-Salamanca, Lerma-Toluca, Santiago-Guadalajara, Santiago-Aguamilpa, Grande-Amacuzac, Tamuín, Pánuco, Yaqui, and La Laja.
Areas where deforestation is critical include Selva Lacandona, Selva Uxpanapa-Chimalapas-El Ocote, Bosques Mesófilos de la Sierra Madre Oriental, Valle México, Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Altos de Chiapas, Los Tuxtlas, Región de la Mariposa Monarca, Cuenca del Lago de Pátzcuaro, Sierra Tarahumara, Sierra de Manantlán, Sierra Sur de Oaxaca, Sierra Norte de Oaxaca, Sierra Sur de Guerrero, Región Huasteca, and Sierra la Giganta-Magdalena.
In addition to finding that 12 million inhabitants lack potable water service, the crusade identified 34 Mexican cities that face growing water shortages. Causes of water shortages are diverse and include lack of rainfall, aquifer overexploitation, fast economic and population growth, and lack of investment in new infrastructure. Solving water supply problems in the cities identified is considered priority under the crusade and will require new investment, water restrictions, and programs for promoting water conservation among the public. CNA officials consider those problems already to be severe and indicate that local government resources will be insufficient for financing the new required infrastructure. Thus, CNA is currently working with local governments to analyze urgent private investment participation schemes.
Cities facing severe shortage problems include the following:
- Border area cities—Ensenada, Mexicali, Tijuana, San Luis Río Colorado, Nogales, Ciudad Juárez, Ciudad Acuña, Piedras Negras, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, Río Bravo, and Matamoros
- Cities with greater economic development—Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, León, Toluca, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, Coatzacoalcos, Chihuahua, Carmen, Aguascalientes, and Hermosillo
- Cities with important tourism infrastructure—Acapulco, Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Mazatlán, Manzanillo, Los Cabos, and Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo
- Cities suffering water-quality problems—Zimapán, Torreón, and Saltillo
- Cities with conflict for irrigation channels— Culiacán and Los Mochis
The growing frequency and increased severity of natural disasters have been evident in recent years. Deforestation and water pollution are considered precursors of those disasters and the growing damages they produce. The states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Yucatán are considered critical areas and will implement Natural Disaster Management Programs with assistance of SEMARNAT and the World Bank.
Areas of Promotion
In addition to promoting the actions outlined in subsequent paragraphs, the National Crusade for Forests and Water includes actions focused on protecting and educating citizens living in extreme poverty in Mexico’s forest areas, controlling overexploitation of aquifers, and launching a strong educational campaign to raise consciousness for protecting Mexico’s forests and water bodies.
Several secretariats will participate in the main actions of the crusade, as will state and local governments. The crusade is expected to be a catalyst for environmental projects and investments, as well as a strong promoter of environmental attitudes.
The following actions will be promoted:
- Implementing natural resources restoration and recovery projects
- Changing public policies to improve regulatory framework and enforcement actions
- Creating the Comisión Nacional de Bosques (National Forests Commission), which will be responsible for solving the forest problems
- Strengthening local public and social institutions
- Improving coordination between the different levels of government with respect to implementation of environmental policies
- Promoting new infrastructure and enforcement capabilities at the local level
- Informing the public of actions being developed and the cost-benefit relationship of those actions, and inviting society to participate in the protection of the resources
The crusade includes the coordination of 11 promotional events, which will involve the participation of President Fox as well as members of the different levels of government. Those events will be considered a starting point for solving specific environmental problems and will set the guidelines for concrete actions and projects.
The proposed agenda for the 11 events is as follows:
Pollution in Rivers and Lakes Caused by Municipal Wastewater Discharges. Participants will include SEMARNAT and CNA. The event’s goal will be to show the relationship between forests and water bodies. The event will place special emphasis on setting lines of action for restoring those basins that suffer greatest pollution. During this event, the National Forests Commission will be created. In addition, SEMARNAT and CNA will present a detailed diagnosis of the lack of sanitation services and wastewater infrastructure. New policies to promote accelerated investment in wastewater treatment plants, as well as efficient operation of those plants, will be presented. At the local level, the project for the rescue of Lake Pátzcuaro will be presented.
Drought in the Northern Border. The principal government entities involved in this program are SEMARNAT, the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, SEDESOL, and the National Institute for Housing Promotion. During this event, a new bilateral program fostering the sustainable use of the water resources in the border area will be announced. The program will involve the cooperation of the population on both sides of the border. At the event, other programs will also be announced covering zoning laws and water use for urban and agricultural regions. Various proposals for the optimization and reuse of the water resources will be made. The event will include a visit to a housing project of the National Institute for Housing Promotion. At that project, new devices for saving energy and water will be showcased. The government will also announce new regulations that will apply to new housing projects constructed in areas with limited water availability.
Deforestation. The principal government entities involved in this event will be SEMARNAT, the National Forests Commission, and PROFEPA. New national programs for combating deforestation will be announced. The National Forests Commission will present its objectives and programs. On a regional level, an official announcement will be made of the commencement of a program for the restoration of the Marques de Comillas region. Local communities will manage that commercial reforestation program.
Pollution of Water Bodies by Industries. The principal government entities involved in this event will be SEMARNAT, the Secretariat of Economy, SAGARPA, and CNA. The national program for the reconversion of the sugar industry will be presented. That program will include measures for eliminating the sugar industry’s discharges into water bodies. Other control and incentive measures will be announced for promoting the minimization of water discharges by Mexican industry.
Tourism and Conservation of Bio-Diversity. The principal government entities involved in this event will be the Secretariat of Tourism, SEDESOL, CNA, and SEMARNAT. A new program will be presented addressing tourist infrastructure development and bio-diversity. The program’s aim is to promote development of a sustainable development practice in the tourism area and to create awareness about this industry’s potential impact on the environment.
Poverty and Degradation of Natural Resources. The principal government entities involved in this event will be SEMARNAT, SEDESOL, and the National Indigenous People Institute. A new program will be presented that aims to stop the vicious circle between poverty and environmental degradation. The government will develop social assistance programs that will require the population to protect the forests and water resources.
Overexploitation of Water Resources and Agriculture Practices with Intensive Use of Water. The principal government entities involved in this event will be SEMARNAT, the Secretariat of Health, SAGARPA, and CNA. The agricultural sector uses 76 percent of the available water resources in Mexico. Efficiency in the use of water resources is very limited because of a lack of investment in adequate infrastructure. Also, some agricultural practices in Mexico include the production of water-intensive crops in regions that have significant water shortages. That problem has caused Mexico to lose over 8 percent of its agricultural lands in the last few years because of salt formation and overexploitation of water resources. To address those issues, the government will announce new programs for promoting the efficient use of water in the agriculture sector. The programs will include measures for promoting the protection of soils and forest resources in agricultural regions. The government is interested also in protecting underground water reservoirs, which are being severely overexploited by agricultural practices. A local program, covering the protection of underground water resources in the region of La Laguna, will also be announced.
Natural Disasters. The principal government entities involved in this event will be SEMARNAT and CNA. A program will be announced for the prevention of natural disasters and reduction of risks associated with those disasters. The program will promote the protection of the mountainous regions surrounding 66 river basins. It will also help protect aquifers and prevent mud slides caused by deforestation and irregular housing development in those areas. A series of measures will be announced for achieving those goals.
Water Shortages in Major Cities. The principal government entities involved in this event will be SEMARNAT and CNA. A new program, whose goal is to promote the recharge of the aquifers and the efficient use of water in major urban areas, will be announced. A specific program for the city of Guadalajara will be announced. The objective of that program is to promote additional water infiltration into the underground reservoirs.
Water and Health. The principal government entities involved in this event will be SEDESOL, CNA, and SEMARNAT. A new program dealing with health issues related to water quality will be announced. The program will include diverse actions on a national level to improve on the quality of sewage treatment throughout Mexico.
Culture and Education for Promoting Water and Forest Preservation. The principal government entities involved in this event will be SEMARNAT, the Secretariat of Public Education, and the National Council for Culture and Arts. This program will work on incorporating the topics of environmental education and the need for the preservation of water and forests into various cultural programs and in information given to the media. The government will promote various artistic programs that will be geared toward promoting those topics on television programs, in photographic contests, and so forth.
SEMARNAT considers that the crusade’s success will depend on society’s willingness to work under a coordinated effort with the government to promote the crusade’s stated goals.
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