As U.S. President Donald Trump moves forward with plans to build a wall along the country’s southern border, the Mexican government has expressed concern over the project’s environmental consequences.
Trump’s border wall might worsen floods along Mexico's Rio Grande, Mexican officials told NPR.
The plan could also violate the 1970 Boundary Treaty that defined the precise border between the U.S and Mexico along the Colorado and the Rio Grande rivers, according to Mexican authorities. Former U.S. President Richard Nixon signed a treaty with his Mexican counterpart that year stipulating that plans to build structures alongside the rivers that could affect their flow must be agreed upon by both sides.
Now the legitimacy of the treaty is being questioned, given that Trump wants to move forward with a border wall plan that ignores environmental consequences, among others.
“We are not in agreement with construction of a wall in the floodplain that affects the trans-border flow of water,” International Boundary and Water Commission, IBWC, engineer Antonio Rascon told NPR.
“We've seen lots of pressure by Homeland Security so that this project moves forward. But the kind of wall they’re planning would have drastic effects on trans-border water flows.”
The IBWC is an international body that was jointly formed by the U.S and Mexico in 1889 to determine the location of the international boundary between shared rivers. The organization was also formed to respond to major floods in the area.
Between 2008 and 2014, for example, the twin border cities of Nogales in the U.S. and Mexico suffered through two major flooding incidents. The destructive floods killed two people, caused millions in damages, washed hundreds of cars away and led to the collapse of small border gates.
Stephen Mumme, a political scientist at Colorado State University who has studied U.S.-Mexico water diplomacy for nearly 40 years, told NPR that the IBWC and Mexican government’s concerns over impending floods are legitimate. He said that Trump’s border wall could act as a dam during torrential rains, deflecting water and worsening conditions for flooding, possibly surpassing the damage experienced between 2008 and 2014.
Mumme also said the U.S. must do more to work with Mexico to address the situation together.
“This is supposed to go forward on a binational, cooperative basis, and that is not happening.”
Trump’s proposed border wall would run from Texas to California.