Mar 09, 2001

Mexico Opens National Crusade for Forests and Water

Mexico City, Mexico - The new Mexican government has made the protection of the country's dwindling forest and water reserves a priority. To create awareness of the importance of forests and water, Mexican President Vicente Fox has launched the National Crusade for Forests and Water in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán.

In the view of this administration, conservation of forests is related to the security of the country. Forest devastation costs the equivalent of 12 percent of Mexico's Gross National Product, estimated to be US$38 billion dollars each year.

Alberto Cardenas, ex-governor of Jalisco state, will be the director of the new Forest Commission, the counterpart of the existing National Water Commission.

The Forest Commission will review legal issues related to forests, "to avoid the abuse of our forests," Cardenas said. The government will work with 4,246 nongovernmental organizations to rescue rivers, lakes and dams, he said.

"It is urgent to diminish the waste of water because today it represents between 30 and 50 percent of domestic, agricultural and industrial consumption," the government acknowledged in an official document from the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Semarnat.

"It is crucial for our nation that all of us work to stop the deterioration of forest areas which have lost 59 percent of their total extent in the last 20 years. It is time that all of us make a commitment to protect the future of our children and their children," Cardenas said.

This event is the first of 10 that environmental authorities will organize this year to reshape public policies about issues such as pollution of lakes and rivers, tourism, drought, scarcity of water at the Mexican/U.S. border, and the protection of biodiversity.

For first time in Mexico, the Fox administration has recognized the economic, social and security implications of environment by making Semarnat part of the "Growth with Quality" Cabinet.

During a radio interview for Radio Red, Environment Secretary Victor Lichtinger pointed out that the Fox administration has been trying to coordinate the work among different agencies in order to prevent environmental conflicts, a first for a Mexican administration.

For instance, Lichtinger says that Procampo, a program of the Agriculture Secretariat, has been one of those guilty of deforestation. Since 1997, the authorities paid farmers for each hectare cultivated. "We are working ... to give these funds to farmers that have sustainable practices," he said.