As Mexicans celebrated a historic win against World Cup defending champions, Germany, Mexico's federal government of Enrique Peña Nieto has cleared the way for the extraction of water in 300 areas, making up 55 percent of Mexican surface water, by companies within the mining, fracking and oil industries for the next 50 years, a move that is being described by some as “water privatization.”
The new 10 presidential decrees, published on June 5, lift 295 out of the 756 decades-long prohibitions on extracting water from previously protected basins, which coincide with areas where mining, fracking and other extractive activities are planned.
The new measure puts at risk individual farmers and agrarian organizations, who are already preparing appeals against losing their permits to use the water, Pedro Moctezuma, from the “Agua para todos” (“Water for All”) coalition and the sustainability research program of Autonomous University of Mexico (UAM), told Sin Embargo.
It allows home and public use of the water reserves in urban areas, paving the way for local governments to license the use of water to private enterprises, including industrial purposes, as it happens in Veracruz, Puebla, Saltillo and other municipalities, said Moctezuma.
But the government denies this is about the privatization of water and defends the measure.
The decrees were announced by President Enrique Peña Nieto along with an interesting and surprising figures, the Environment Secretary Rafael Pacchiano, the director of the National Water Commission (Conagua) Roberto Ramirez de la Parra and the President of the World Wildlife Foundation (WFF) in Mexico, Jorge Rickards, and its CEO Carter Roberts.
“These decrees represent a vision for the future, since they provide a sustainable path for these areas that will prevent serious over-exploitation, pollution and scarcity that we live in many rivers of the country,” said Rickards.
"Water is not for sale." A group of people protest against the privatization of water on World Water Day in Mexico City. March 22, 2018. Photo | EFE
The WWF directors said the new decrees will guarantee water for the basins' flora and fauna at the same time it will provide resources for current and future “productive activities.”
This might be true for them, given that one of WWF's main sponsors is Coca-Cola, a company with special interests in Mexico's market and water reserves.
The government used the presence and participation of the WWF to validate their policies and claim the decrees are “in the name of conservation.”
Social organizations and activists had previously blocked the new General Law of Water, which allowed for water decanting and the privatization of water. Now, the new measure lifts extractive prohibitions and allows decanting such as the Cutzamala system that takes water to Mexico City from the surrounding state of Mexico.
Moctezuma said the transportation of water would be charged to Odebrecht and Barcelona Waters in the basins of Actopan and Antigua rivers, and that the prohibitions were lifted in areas where energy-related activities are planned, like the basin of the San Fernando Soto La Marina river, located in the states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon.
The decrees invalidate about 50,000 previous water concessions granted for life to agrarian and rural communities decades ago, in favor of urban areas.
Besides, neither basic human rights nor the rights of Indigenous peoples close to the basins were taken into account, despite Mexico being a signatory to international convention that requiring consultations with Native people on such issues.
The decrees state that the water concessions will be given on a first-come first-served basis, and experts think that they will benefit the big energy and mining companies.