SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, Guanajuato, Mexico – The Organic Consumers Association (OCA), through its San Miguel-based Via Organica Project, will support a water tribunal in Mexico to examine human rights violations related to the exploitation and contamination of Mexico’s water resources.
The OCA supports the presentation of complaints before the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT), an international ethical court, which will hear 10 water-related cases, including one involving people who suffer from health problems caused by fluoride and arsenic poisoning.
“The number of people in Mexico suffering from health problems related to toxic levels of fluoride and arsenic in Mexico’s contaminated water sources will only increase if the problem is not addresses,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the OCA. “In Guanajuato, this contamination is a direct consequence of the over-exploitation of aquifers, primarily by agribusiness which in the northern part of the state uses about 85 percent of the groundwater to irrigate commercial crops that are exported to the U.S. Some water sources already register fluoride at over 10 times the Mexican norm,” Cummins said.
On Sept. 20-21, 2013, the PPT anticipates hearing 10 cases. The hearings will begin at 9 a.m. in the Mezquite Salon, Km 11 of the highway to Dolores Hidalgo. The international press and the public are invited to attend the hearings.
One of the most wide-reaching cases will be brought by the Coalition in Defense of the Independence Basin (CODECIN), a group made up of 12 organizations. CODECIN will present a complaint on behalf of persons in seven municipalities, including the international tourist destination of San Miguel de Allende. CODECIN will represent people who suffer from fluoride and arsenic poisoning caused by contaminated groundwater in the Independence Aquifer.
The PPT also will hear cases involving the over-exploitation and contamination of aquifers in the Coahuila-Durango region, known as Comarca Lagunera, as well as in the states of Michoacan and Puebla. A special case of groundwater contamination – the unique cenotes found only in the Yucatan peninsula – will be showcased.
A panel of judges selected for their moral authority and professional standing will hear the cases and will issue verdicts on September 21, in the Santuario de Atotonilco. Confirmed judges include Juan José Consejo (Director, Instituto de la Naturaleza y la Sociedad de Oaxaca), Narciso Barrera (Union of Concerned Scientists), Laura Carlsen (Director, Americas Program, Center for International Policy), Martha Bañuelos (Metropolitan Autonomous University), Patricia Ávila (National Autonomous University of Mexico), and Felipe Macías (University of Guanajuato).
About Mexico’s water contamination
River pollution severely affects many Mexican communities. In one dramatic example, a child died from arsenic poisoning after falling into the Rio Santiago River, which receives effluviums from Guadalajara. In another example, a massive oil spill in the Rio Coatzacoalcos in Veracruz was never properly cleaned up. As a result, the Rio Atoyac is now heavily contaminated by waste from factories, open-air landfills and industrialized chicken and pig farms.
While estimates of the current affected population are uncertain, recent studies show that at least 53 communities in the northern part of Guanajuato suffer from the health consequences of consuming groundwater that entered the aquifer between 10,000-35,000 years ago. Due to the age of the water, it contains unusually high levels of dissolved fluoride, arsenic and other minerals in increasingly high concentrations. At the current rate of extraction, the struggle to access water, especially in rural communities, will only worsen. “As the groundwater levels continue to drop, the contamination of the water in the region is projected to increase, affecting both rural and urban areas alike.”
About the Permanent People’s Tribunal
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PTT) is an international ethical Tribunal founded in 1979 to examine and issue judgments on human rights violations. Tribunal hearings have taken place in various countries including Tibet, Argentina, Eritrea, El Salvador, the Philippines, Afghanistan, East Timor, Guatemala and India. The Mexico Chapter began in 2011 under the rubric of “Free Trade, Violence, Impunity and Peoples’ Rights.” It focuses on various themes, including immigration, environmental devastation and GMO corn, among others. The National Assembly of Environmentally Affected Groups (ANNA) is the coordinator for all the environmental cases presented to the Tribunal in Mexico.
The Tribunal works to involve communities, non-governmental organizations and specialists in the investigation of these issues; to raise public awareness and provide in-depth information; and to encourage broad participation in the resolution of problems. Though Tribunal decisions are not legally binding, they may generate official proceedings or a government response based on their research, testimony and findings.
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The OCA deals with crucial issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children’s health, corporate accountability, Fair Trade, environmental sustainability and other key topics. We are the only organization in the US focused exclusively on promoting the views and interests of the nation’s estimated 50 million organic and socially responsible consumers.