Building Technical Capacity and Elevating Community Voices in Guatemala

Left to right sitting: Jeanette de Noack, ADA2; Dr. Rye Howard, ELAW; Amy Porter, US EPA; Lucia Xiloj, ADA2; Dr. Meche Lu, ELAW; Aura Padilla, ADA2; and Karina Montes, consultant, Peru. Left to right standing: Dr. Gilles Wendling, ELAW; Estuardo Noack, ADA2; and Oscar Villagran, ADA2.

Guatemala has many laws aimed at protecting the environment but lacks the capacity to identify polluted water, soil, and air.

“If we want to hold polluters accountable, we need proof of the environmental crimes,” says Jeanette de Noack, Executive Director, Alianza de Derecho Ambiental y Agua (Environmental Law and Water Alliance, ADA2).

Over the past year, ADA2 worked closely with ELAW’s Science Team to build the capacity of Guatemalan scientists to monitor air, soil, and water quality, as well as advance enforcement of environmental quality standards.

Together, they held a series of workshops for scientists in government and academia, and issued four publications, including the Guidebook for Water, Air, and Soil Sampling for Environmental Monitoring, tailored for government agencies and academics that analyze evidence in contamination cases. The trainings were conducted in four selected communities in Alta Verapaz, Quetzaltenango, Petén, and Izabal.

In February, ADA2 hosted a two-day international gathering in Guatemala City that brought together roughly 50 Guatemalan scientists and authorities. The gathering featured presentations from ELAW Scientists Drs. Meche Lu, Rye Howard, and Gilles Wendling; and representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (in person and virtually) who shared their experiences in environmental law enforcement; and more.

The project culminated with community workshops and meetings with authorities in Alta Verapaz, Quetzaltenango, Petén, and Izabal to improve environmental sampling and enforcement. ADA2 and ELAW scientists introduced the guidebooks geared toward scientists described above, as well as ELAW’s Community Guide to Water Sampling, which provides user-friendly information for communities.

Bern Johnson
Executive Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide