Protecting Lake Chapala

Given strained relations between the U.S. and Mexico, I was encouraged last week at a bi-national gathering focused on conservation strategies for the Lake Chapala watershed: “Unidos por Chapala” (United through Chapala).

ELAW’s prize-winning partner Dr. Raquel Gutierrez Najera and her organization, the Environmental Law Institute of Guadalajara (IDEA), convened the conference.

IDEA brought together U.S. diplomats, Environmental Protection Agency officials, ELAW, and representatives of Mexican civil society to discuss how to conserve Mexico’s largest freshwater lake and its wider watershed, which includes the Lerma and Santiago Rivers.

Lake Chapala is under siege from polluting industries, agricultural run-off, and over-appropriation of water for industrial use — shortchanging residents and visitors. IDEA has worked tirelessly, for decades, to make community voices heard in efforts to protect the watershed.

Citizens working to protect Lake Chapala are also under siege. IDEA defends the human rights of these citizens to protect natural resources.

Among the recommendations from last week’s conference:

  •     Create a “Sister Watershed” program with the Chesapeake Bay Program and the department of Mexico’s National Water Commission charged with managing the Chapala watershed.
  •     Engage the estimated 25,000 North Americans living in the Chapala area in education and conservation programs.
  •     Encourage consular officials to keep U.S. Department of State promises to protect environmental defenders in Mexico, and worldwide.

An immediate, tangible outcome of the conference was the creation of an academic network to bring technical expertise to watershed cleanup.

We are inspired by the dedication of Dr. Gutierrez and her team at IDEA.

Read more about last week’s gathering and work to protect the Lake Chapala:

ELAW Advocate, Summer 2015
Cleaning up polluted rivers

Lori Maddox
ELAW Associate Director

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