December 18, 2009
After six years of struggle, one determined citizen of México has proven that persistence pays off. Mrs. Lupita Lara, together with ELAW partner organization Instituto De Derecho Ambiental (IDEA, A.C.), has relentlessly challenged the notorious Arcediano Dam, which would have caused environmental havoc in the state of Jalisco, México.
The Arcediano Dam was to be built on the Santiago River, downstream from Lake Chapala to provide water for the residents of Guadalajara. Arcediano has been the subject of national and international outrage because of the scope of the environmental and human rights impacts. Not only would the building of the dam destroy sensitive eco-systems, but there were significant health risks associated with the water flowing to Guadalajara.
Despite the risks, Mrs. Lara refused to leave her home, which was in the way of the building of the dam. She had lived there with her sister and her elderly mother (who has since passed away) for many years, and when her neighbors accepted small remuneration to relocate, Mrs. Lara stayed and fought the project. She found an ally in Raquel Gutierrez, an attorney with IDEA.
Raquel filed actions in every possible tribunal and agency with potential influence on the process (including the environmental commission created by the North American Free Trade Agreement) on behalf of the community and Mrs. Lara. Early on, she enlisted the help of ELAW attorneys to help build her arguments against the dam. ELAW scientist Meche Lu reviewed the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the proposed dam. Meche traveled to the area in 2004 to meet with Raquel and community members, and observe first-hand the proposed project site.
Meche's review of the project focused on the Environmental Impact Assessment. She found major flaws in the EIA because it failed to adequately assess the environmental risks associated with the project.
Despite concerns about the project, it was given preliminary approval in 2003. Mrs. Lara and IDEA continued battling, however, and on Dec. 11th, the Mexican Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources was forced to revoke its 2003 authorization for the project.
This is a huge victory for Mrs. Lara, IDEA, ELAW and, most importantly, the people of Mexico who will be spared the environmental, health and human rights violations that would have occurred by the building of the Arcediano Dam.