From 16 to 18 August there was held a civil mission of observation in the central valleys of the state of Oaxaca that investigated the problem of water in this region. Named “Water is Life; Let us Defend its Existence,” the mission, organized by the Center for Indigenous Rights Flor y Canto A.C., visited the indigenous communities of El Porvenir, San Pedro Mártir, San Pedro Apóstol, La Barda Paso de Piedra, San Felipe Apóstol, and San Antonino Castillo Velasco in the districts of Ocotlán de Morelos and Zimatlán de Álvarez.
The mission’s organizers presented their principal findings and conclusions in a press conference held in Oaxaca de Juárez on 19 August. Directing themselves to “national and state media,” “indigenous peoples and communities of Oaxaca,” “human-rights and civil-society organizations,” and “society in general,” they stressed the “serious problems of violations of economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights” suffered by residents of the visited communities, above all because of “water scarcity and pollution of rivers, streams, and wells.” According to members of the mission, these problems are linked with an “alarming” decrease in agricultural production in the region as well as to the phenomenon of “increasing migration.” Furthermore, the authors of the communiqué observed that “the majority of these communities lack the economic resources needed to promote actions that contribute to the resolution of environmental problems,” although they emphasize that, in light of the problems related to water in the region, indigenous campesinos “have not had their arms crossed.” Instead, they are “developing actions to recharge aquifers: building water-capture devices, filtration-wells, dams, as well as cleaning paths, streams, and rivers,” with the result that “sub-surface water has been recharged, meaning that water-levels have increased.”
The civil mission of observation criticized governmental and business policies related to the question of water in the area: “the major part” of the problems of “environmental pollution, water scarcity, lack of adequate projects and economic resources” are attributed to “the lack of public policies on the part of federal and state authorities.” The communiqué stressed in this sense the “lack of sensibility among public servants” as significant. Similarly, it criticizes the policy of benefiting large transnational corporations, especially mining corporations, that have been granted concessions to exploit the natural resources found in central Oaxaca, in addition to the governmental tendency to repress oppositional actions on the part of campesinos who oppose the pollution that results from the operation of mining firms. In addition, the communiqué expresses concern for the lack of treatment of the Atoyac River, through which flows waste from Oaxaca de Juárez.
In light of the water problem investigated by the mission, the communiqué demands the following: “The respect of the economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights of the indigenous communities of Ocotlán de Morelos and Zimatlán de Álvarez”; “the recognition of the work of integral care for the environment by means of the strengthening of aquifers realized by indigenous communities of the Valley of Ocotlán and Zimatlán”; “the thorough recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples regarding natural resources, land and territory, as stewards and guardians of such”; “the immediate implementation of a clean-up project of the Atoyac Rive”; and “the recognition and strict respect of the right to previous consultation, free and informed, and to self-determination, that campesinos of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca have.”
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