Federal Court Suspends Work on Dam in Jalisco State Pending New Hearings in Local Communities

By Navarro, Carlos | SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico, March 9, 2011 | Go to article overview

Federal Court Suspends Work on Dam in Jalisco State Pending New Hearings in Local Communities


Navarro, Carlos, SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico


In early February, a federal district judge ordered the federal government to halt construction of the controversial El Zapotillo dam on the Rio Verde in Los Altos region of Jalisco state and ordered the government to conduct new hearings with the affected parties. The ruling was a temporary victory for residents of Temacapulin, Acasico, and Palmarejo, who would have been displaced by the project. For now, the government is prevented from proceeding with dam construction, but the Comision Nacional del Agua (CONAGUA) plans to file an appeal via the Organismo de Cuenca Lerma Santiago Pacifico (OCLSP), which is officially in charge of the project.

El Zapotillo was one of two dams that authorities had planned to supplement water supplies in Guadalajara in Jalisco state and other nearby communities, including the city of Leon in Guanajuato state. Construction of the Arcediano dam was postponed indefinitely because of much-higher-than-expected cost estimates, but work on El Zapotillo was moving ahead before the ruling. CONAGUA and other agencies involved in the project, including the Jalisco water commission (Comision Estatal del Agua, CEA), had completed about one-fourth of the preliminary work on the dam wall before the federal court (Juzgado Segundo de Distrito en Materia Administrativa) handed down its decision.

The affected communities have been fighting a legal battle with the federal government for about five years to halt construction of El Zapotillo. They joined forces with land-rights advocates and environmental organizations, including the Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA), to form the Comite Salvemos Temacapulin, Acasico y Palmarejo. The committee had taken legal action to stop CONAGUA from moving ahead with the project SourceMex, Nov. 18, 2009.

Project violates local residents' basic rights

In its decision, the court ruled that there was evidence that the dam construction had violated basic guarantees for inhabitants of the three communities, as spelled out in Articles 14, 16, 27, and 133 of the Mexican Constitution. "It is evident that the [decisions related to the dam construction] violate the guarantees of legality, legal certainty, the right to an audience, the right of private property, the right to receive complete and timely information," said the court.

As a result, the court ordered the government to immediately halt all further work on the dam and set up a mechanism for residents to fully present their concerns.

The court decision also offers legal protection to local residents Consuelo Carvajal Espinoza from Temacapulin and Luis Villegas Ruiz from Acasico, who led the effort to file the lawsuit.

There are other strikes against the government. For example, the Mexico City weekly news magazine Proceso reports that CONAGUA has not obtained the required environmental permits from the Secretaria del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT). The project coordinators, which include the Jalisco state government, also failed to obtain the go-ahead from the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH), which determines whether a site has cultural or historical significance.

There are other strikes against the government. For example, the Mexico City weekly news magazine Proceso reports that CONAGUA has not obtained the required environmental permits from the Secretaria del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT). The project coordinators, which include the Jalisco state government, also failed to obtain the go-ahead from the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH), which determines whether a site has cultural or historical significance.

Furthermore, said Proceso, project opponents have gained international support, with Temacapulin hosting the third-annual international conference of dam-affected people and their allies (Encuentro Internacional de Afectados por Represas y sus Aliados). …

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Federal Court Suspends Work on Dam in Jalisco State Pending New Hearings in Local Communities
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