Target: Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto
Goal: Save mountain range’s last dam-free river and protect the wildlife that depend on the water for their survival
The San Pedro Mezquital River is the last undammed river in the Sierra Madre mountain range, but that is set to change soon with the recent approval of a new hydroelectric dam. Mexico’s Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources authorized construction of the Las Cruces hydroelectric dam in September 2014, much to the dismay of environmental conservationists, local indigenous people and rural communities.
Aside from the obvious argument that the destruction of our natural resources for short-term gains must not continue unchecked for our planet’s survival, the San Pedro Mezquital’s precious ecosystem represents the range’s last unsullied river. Maintaining the river’s natural state gives researchers invaluable insight into the damage already done by the damming of every other river in the Sierra Madres. The San Pedro Mezquital is also a main artery that feeds one of the nation’s largest mangrove forests, the Marismas Nacionales. There is no telling what damage will be caused to the forests if the dam is constructed.
The river’s monsoon floods carry sediment to the lower regions, supporting the life and agriculture of the entire ecosystem along its banks and in its waters. Fishing, agriculture, aquaculture and husbandry along the river support 12,000 families and sustain a 1.25 million peso economy. The river is of significant religious and cultural importance to local communities, who have lived with it for hundreds of years. As environmental lawyer Sandra Moguel argues, the dam would violate environmental and human rights laws, both nationally and internationally.
In 2009, a petition was presented to the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention by multiple conservation groups, including Greenpeace, Environmental Law for the Americas and Grupo Ecologico Manglar, proposing an international treaty to protect the wetlands in accordance with national and international environmental laws. The Ramsar, in turn, recommended that the Mexican government conduct studies on the local indigenous and fishing communities before constructing the dam to determine what negative effects they might suffer as a result. Sadly, the government failed to conduct any such studies and authorized the dam in 2014.
Urge the Mexican government to protect the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range’s last dam-free river before its ecosystem is marred for good.
Dear President Nieto,
The San Pedro Mezquital River is hugely significant to the ecosystem along its banks and in its waters, and is invaluable to the indigenous and rural fishing communities that rely on it for food, economy, religion and culture. To dam the last river in the Sierra Madre mountain range would be short-sighted and irresponsible, as well as a violation of human and environmental rights laws.
The short-term gains of power and jobs are far outweighed by the myriad of benefits to maintaining this vital resources’s natural state. Damming this river could cause irreversible damage to the animals, people and plants that rely on it. I urge you to reconsider damming the San Pedro Mezquital River.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Christian Frausto Bernal via Flickr