Defending Mexico’s water

Greenpeace activists at the CONAGUA office in Mexico DF.

This weekend the world celebrated World Water Day – a reminder of how crucial it is for us to protect and defend our waterways and ensure we can all have access to clean, safe water – a human right, recognised by the United Nations.

However, over the past few weeks here in Mexico we have had little reason to celebrate as the country faces one of the biggest threats to its waterways for years – the Ley General de Aguas. This new piece of legislation, introduced to the house of representatives on the 4th of March, is a far cry from its original goal: to ensure fair access to safe, clean water for all.

This is a law that puts profits before people.

Legalising pollution

The Detox campaign has been working for years to create a toxic-free future and we have seen just what is possible, witnessing; transformational change in the fashion sector. However, instead of securing this progress, the new Ley General de Aguas would allow companies to freely pollute Mexico’s rivers, determining ‘acceptable levels’ of hazardous chemicals, allowing companies to self-regulate and even making pollution affordable with small fines.

Sampling Waste Water in China

Criminalising independent investigation

Perhaps one of the most worrying precedents in this initiative is the criminalisation of investigations or monitoring conducted without the government’s permission. Scientists, independent NGOs like Greenpeace, journalists or even school children would face a fine if they were to conduct investigations without permission of the government. It would deny the Mexican people the right to know what is being released into the rivers they rely upon.

Privatizing our future

The law also furthers a system of water privatization, giving big companies the right to do what they want with our water via concessions, move it from one river to another, use huge amounts for mega-projects or pollute freely. This would further entrench a broken system: 70% of Mexico’s rivers are polluted and the availability of clean water is rapidly decreasing.

Activists from the Agua Para Tod@s coalition protest at the CONAGUA office in Mexico City.

However, there is hope. A growing movement of civil society organisations, renowned scientists, some of the country’s most respected academics and a host of celebrities have joined the thousands speaking out against this law. The law has already been delayed once and the voices against it are growing . Over 100,00 have signed an online petition and this weekend thousands took to the streets and to tweets to defend Mexico’s water.

Another way: a people’s law

The movement has also proposed its own solution: a people’s water law (in Spanish) developed over two years by over 450 different experts in the field. This ‘people’s law’ would work towards protecting Mexico’s water resources for the future generations: it would regulate and reduce the use of hazardous chemicals and, unlike the current proposal, guarantee the Mexican people’s human right to access clean water.

Mexico is at a crossroads. The next few weeks will decide the future of the country’s precious water but this is not just an issue for people here in Mexico, this law sets a dangerous precendent about how we use and treat the world’s water.

We need you. Join the movement and help us take this to an international stage by adding your name to the petition and sharing this news with your contacts.

Robin Perkins is the Detox Programme Leader for Greenpeace Mexico. He tweets @RobinJPerkins.

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