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The area affected by the fire. The area affected by the fire.

Lake Chapala fire was arson, groups claim

Environmental organizations warn of serious impact on birds

A fire that destroyed up to 50% of the reed beds in an area on the shores of Lake Chapala last Saturday appears to have been intentionally set, environmental organizations claim.

An inter-municipal agency for environmental protection and sustainable development and the ecological organization Corazón de la Tierra believe the fire in a reed bed in San Antonio Tlayacapan will have a serious environmental impact because it was used as nesting grounds by many endemic and migratory bird species.

“The flames destroyed up to 50% of the reeds and other aquatic plants . . . which could mean the death of a great number of young and adult birds,” said the two organizations in a prepared statement.

After the fire was reported at 9:45pm Saturday, it took the local fire department six hours to put it out. The environmental organizations said there were reports that the fire was arson, representing “an environmental crime.”

Not only were bird species affected but pollution from the fire could put the infrastructure of the lakeside community of San Antonio Tlayacapan, in the municipality of Chapala, at risk, they said.

It was not the first incident of vandalism in the area.

The statement recalled there was an attempt to start a fire in February but it was unsuccessful due to the moisture in the area, and in early January several signs were destroyed in the same area, where a popular birdwatching site is located.

A reed bed “does not flare up by itself, unless there’s a bolt of lighting, which didn’t happen on this occasion.”

“Events like this fire are shameful and must make us redouble our efforts to preserve Mexico’s most important lake,” said the organizations.

They also remarked that millions of people depend on Lake Chapala as their main water supply, while others depend on fishing in its waters.

“Birds are not a decoration, they’re a very important part of this ecosystem and work daily to maintain it in a healthy state.”

The Lake Chapala wetlands have been recognized since 2002 by the United Nations as a protected area.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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