Water Rights for Indigenous Communities in Mexico

Communities in Veracruz, Mexico, are celebrating a federal court ruling that protects local water supplies from three mini hydro power projects proposed for the Jalacingo River. The plants would have altered the river’s course to generate power for industry and disrupted traditional water systems, including freshwater springs.

“The communities have managed their use of the Jalacingo for centuries,” says Xavier Martinez, Staff Attorney at the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA). “This was privatization of a public resource. The judges set an important precedent by recognizing the community’s water rights.”

Xavier called on ELAW Staff Scientists Mark Chernaik and Meche Lu for an expert opinion on the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of constructing the power plants. The judges agreed with Mark and Meche’s findings that the plants risked irreparable ecological damage and threatened access to water for local communities.

“ELAW staff revealed that the hydroelectric project could directly affect the traditional water systems,” says Xavier. “This may be the first time in Mexico that federal courts have used the right to water and the precautionary principle to suspend an energy project in a trial.”

The proponents of the dam project have not given up, and the case is moving forward. For more news on this inspiring victory see: La Jornada and Estados.

If you would like to learn more about our work and how you can support ELAW, visit our website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide