Alfaro and the polluted river. Alfaro and the polluted river.

Jalisco’s new governor announces Santiago river clean-up

Over 3.4 billion pesos will be invested in correcting 'shameful example' of environmental abuse

The Jalisco government has announced that more than 3.4 billion pesos (US $167.4 million) will be spent to clean up the heavily-polluted Santiago river.

The day after he was sworn in as governor, Enrique Alfaro Ramírez told reporters gathered at the river’s contaminated Juanacatlán waterfall on Friday that six state secretariats would contribute to the massive clean-up task.

Federal authorities will also contribute funds to the efforts.

“This is the first public commitment that the government of Jalisco has taken on. I was here during the campaign and in front of the residents of Jalisco I pledged that our first act in office would be to present a comprehensive clean-up strategy for the Santiago river basin,” Alfaro said.

“The state government can’t solve the problem on its own, it can’t be dealt with just with new laws [implemented in] an isolated manner. It’s not an issue that only has to do with the quality of the water, [it requires a] response across sectors that involves health, education and infrastructure,” he added.

The governor described the condition of the river as “one of the most shameful examples [of environmental abuse] of recent decades,” charging that “we have all failed” the waterway.

The severe pollution of the Santiago river, which flows through 17 Jalisco municipalities, is obvious to anyone in its vicinity.

White foam, a greenish tinge to the water and an offensive stench are common characteristics of the 562-kilometer long river, which originates in Lake Chapala and empties into the Pacific Ocean 16 kilometers northwest of San Blas, Nayarit.

Patricia Martínez, a lawmaker who will head up the agency responsible for overseeing the massive clean-up task, said that as many as 1,000 factories dump contaminants into the river, placing the health of half a million people at risk. Farms located nearby also contribute to its pollution.

To tackle the problem, Water Management Secretary Jorge Gastón González said the government will have to rehabilitate 40 water treatment plants and build 14 new ones at a total cost of just over 2.5 billion pesos (US $123 million).

A range of other measures will be implemented at the municipal level to clean up the river and lawmakers at both state and federal level are pushing to significantly increase the penalties imposed on those found to be contaminating waterways.

Alfaro said that state authorities will also seek to increase vigilance of the river as there are currently only eight environmental inspectors dedicated to the task in all of Jalisco.

“This [pollution problem] doesn’t require a Band-Aid solution . . . We’re going to introduce an investment program worth billions of pesos, it’s as simple as that,” the governor declared.

Source: Reforma (sp), Milenio (sp) 

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