NEWS

Alert for Water in Mexico. Pemex and mining companies contaminated 70% of the water, warn UN and academics

Alert for Water in Mexico. Pemex and mining companies contaminated 70% of the water, warn UN and academics

Specialists in various disciplines in Sciences of the UNAM, as well as the UN Rapporteur on the Management of Hazardous Substances agreed that it was as of 1994, with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, that in Mexico the proliferation of extractive industries and with this the laxity of the regulations was also established to allow them to operate with impunity, which has put their natural resources, mainly water, at real risk.

Raúl García Barrios, researcher at the Regional Center for Multidisciplinary Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, warned that 70 percent of Mexican rivers are seriously polluted by extractive and private industries and also by Petróleos Mexicanos and its subsidiaries, which that has the country in a "catastrophe."

Extractive industries are those that are dedicated to extracting and exploiting subsoil resources: minerals, gas and oil.

The extractive industries in Mexico, both those managed by the State and private, have caused a "catastrophic" situation in the bodies of water, since around 70 percent of the rivers present serious contamination, denounced specialists in the field and civil organizations . Furthermore, all this deterioration has been done with the permission and omission of federal government officials and state and municipal authorities, they explained.

For the Rapporteur of the United Nations Organization (UN) on the Management of Hazardous Substances, Baskut Tuncak, pollution is a human rights problem and in Mexico it has become of serious consequences, particularly for the weakest.

Extractive industries are those that are dedicated to extracting and exploiting subsoil resources: minerals, gas and oil.

These industries, said the UN Rapporteur, exert violence against the communities, mostly indigenous, by contaminating with toxic chemicals, since the victims lack access to remedial measures, thereby incurring injustices in Mexico and around of the world. The companies, he said, continue to pollute air, water and land with impunity.

For this reason, he stressed, the extractive industry is not sustainable, since there is no solution to the problems it causes and, especially in the water issue, the situation is already one of crisis due to the rapid depletion of the water layers.

Dr. Raúl García Barrios, researcher at the Regional Center for Multidisciplinary Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), highlighted that 70 percent of Mexican rivers are seriously polluted by these industries, including Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), which that has has the country in a "catastrophe."

The specialist mentioned the factors that have allowed this contamination, and listed the systematic violation of Mexican laws, the weakness of the rule of law, corruption, the omission of normative consistency and the insufficient budget.

"Mexico has the most battered Constitution in the world," he said. "In Mexico, the failures of the State are endogenous to the economic system," he added.

IMPACT AND SOCIAL IMPAIRMENT

For Omar Arellano Aguilar, biologist and Doctor of Science from UNAM, the impacts on human communities due to contamination in water bodies are manifested in the loss of economic activities due to damage to biodiversity, in addition to being also present in the health issue, since the situation causes kidney diseases, leukemia and allergies, mainly. But, despite this, he reproached, Environmental Standard 001 allows pollution caused by industrial discharges.

The Official Mexican Standard NOM-001-SEMARNAT-1996 is in charge of establishing the maximum permissible limits of pollutants in wastewater discharges into national waters and goods.

The specialist and professor of the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources of the UNAM, assured that as of 1994, with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the proliferation of transnational companies was detonated and with it the also the laxity of the regulations to allow them to operate with impunity and exploit - and pollute - the water at will.

"[Mexico] is becoming a society with high socio-environmental risk that causes widespread social discontent," said the specialist.
José Luis Pablos Hach, Agronomist, Master of Science, Doctor of Statistics and professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics of UNAM, said that the country has 446 thousand 777 cubic meters of fresh water per year that suffers variations in its quantity and unequal territorial distribution. In the Mexican Republic, he mentioned, there are 51 main rivers through which 87 percent of surface runoff flows.

"Of the 731 hydrological basins that exist, 104 show availability problems that are due to overexploitation, overconcession and contamination that we have been dragging for many years and in terms of groundwater, of 653 aquifers, 105 are in a situation of overexploitation" , he claimed.
A survey by the Center for Social Studies and Public Opinion revealed that 89.7 percent of Mexicans agree that there should be a Law that prohibits the exploitation of minerals and hydrocarbons in protected natural areas, both by Pemex and by private businesses.

Another exercise carried out by the same study center of the Chamber of Deputies states that one in two Mexicans considers that the highest rate of affection towards him or his family is found in water pollution (51.0 percent). In addition, four out of 10 citizens are "very" concerned about the overexploitation of natural resources.

To exemplify this crisis situation, Francisca García, representative of the Río Sonora Basin committees, recalled that on August 6, 2014, the Buenavista del Cobre mine - a subsidiary of Grupo México - spilled 40 thousand cubic meters of sulfuric acid with 700 tons of heavy metals in the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers, which affected 22 thousand people in seven municipalities: Ures, Baviácora, Aconchi, Huépac, Banámichi, San Felipe de Jesús and Arizpe.

The activist stated that the rights to water, a healthy environment and health have been violated, because although Grupo México promised to develop a clinic for the care of those affected and water treatment plants, four years after the spill , did not comply by ensuring that there are no longer people affected by the ecological disaster.

The inhabitants, he said, are suspicious of the water and the food they produce, since it is unknown if they are suitable for human consumption or are contaminated.

It is worth mentioning that Grupo México is owned by Germán Larrea Mota-Velasco, a Mexican billionaire who also participates in companies and organizations such as Grupo Financiero Banamex, the Mexican Council of Businessmen and Grupo Televisa. The owner of this mining consortium is considered a
one of the richest people in Mexico and has, according to Forbes magazine, a fortune that exceeds 18 billion pesos.

García said that they will continue to fight until they ensure the remediation and non-repetition of the damage.

Along the same lines, teacher Mayeli Sánchez, an expert in Ecotoxicology and Aquatic Ecology of the PODER organization, denounced that in the case of the Sonora River the magnitude of the damage in more than 200 kilometers affected is not yet clear, because, she said, there were irregularities in taking samples of contaminated water.

"The ecocide left the communities in uncertainty," he criticized.
He also highlighted that Mexican regulations are lax, since according to the laws, the company was obliged to determine the level of damage and to implement a remediation plan, which was limited to a soil remediation plan and not an ecological one. "Our rules are quite lax," he declared.

The agencies that allow mining activity in the country are the Ministry of Economy, Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), Finance and Public Credit (SHCP), Territorial and Urban Agrarian Development (Sedatu), Labor and Social Welfare (STPS), National Defense (Sedena) and Energy (Sener); also the National Commissions for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI) and the National Water Commission, as well as the Mexican Geological Service (SGM), the municipal governments and the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS).

The Superior Audit of the Federation (ASF) has exhibited the lack of application of sanctions for non-compliance by the mining companies, irregularities regarding the collection of fees, outdated standards, as well as the non-compliance of reports from the concessionaires that have not exploited guaranteed territories.

The recommendations made by the supervisory body in its second package of audits to the Public Account 2016 were addressed to the Ministry of Energy, the Tax Administration System (SAT) and the Ministry of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development (Sedatu).

WASTEWATER AND POLLUTION

According to Agua.org.mx. Every year millions of cubic meters of wastewater, municipal, industrial and agricultural discharges are discharged into water bodies that are improperly treated or without any treatment. Water pollution has a severe impact on ecosystems and health. It is necessary to reduce volumes and improve treatment processes, not only to ensure social welfare and environmental protection, but also for economic and national security reasons.

In Mexico, wastewater discharges are classified as municipal (urban and rural public supply) and non-municipal (other uses such as self-supplied industry). According to official figures, 52.7% of the municipal water generated is treated, and 32% of the non-municipal water.

Although there is progress, it is still insufficient and there is an undetermined volume of contaminated water that is not collected, that is lost in the drainage networks or that is illegally discharged directly into the environment. It is estimated that in 2015 the economic cost of pollution caused by untreated wastewater was 57,403 million pesos, equivalent to 0.3% of gross domestic product.

Reducing water pollution requires a strong investment in infrastructure for wastewater treatment and would represent savings in terms of medical care to treat diarrheal diseases caused by contaminated water and agricultural products. In 2015, 3 thousand 754 people died in Mexico due to intestinal infectious diseases.

–With information from Agua.org.mx
By Ivette Lira
https://www.nodal.am

Video: Pemex announces 7 new crude finds in Gulf of Mexico (October 2020).