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water rights protest in Puebla The activists come from multiple towns in the Valley of Mexico, listed on the sign seen here.

Petition platform joins fight against international water distributor

Activists' online appeal asks for help in ridding their community of a Bonafont plant

Indigenous communities from the Cholula Valley region and the communities near Mexico’s two most famous volcanoes — Iztaccihuatl and Popocatépetl — are demanding that the multinational water company Bonafont leave their land immediately.

The latest salvo in a longstanding debate about who has rights to water — international companies or local communities — was fired by a group called Pueblos Unidos of the Cholulteca Region, which has put out a call to the international community on the activist platform SumofUs.org, asking it to help them remove a Bonafont plant from the area where they live.

The group cites environmental damages that they say are due to the company’s presence there, including contaminated water.

The Bonafont brand belongs to the French company Danone, also known as Dannon in the United States. The Bonafont brand is sold in Mexico and Brazil.

water rights protest in Puebla
“The water belongs to the people,” says this mural near the Bonafont plant in Puebla. Tamara Pearson/Green Left

Mexico currently faces extreme drought in much of the country, and the Valley of México where these indigenous communities live is constantly under the threat of running out of water as the populations of Mexico City, Puebla, Toluca and other metropolitan areas continue to demand the region’s water.

Mexico is consistently listed by several sources as one of the five biggest countries for bottled water consumption.

The activists said in their statement on SumofUs.org that they believe that last year’s sinkhole in the municipality of Santa María Zacatepec was caused by the overexploitation of the area’s aquifers. An area 126 meters across in spots and 45 meters deep collapsed in May 2021, destroying the surrounding cropland and a house nearby. The area became something of a tourist attraction until studies by the Environmental Ministry determined that the area was continuing to sink and was unsafe.

Community protesters took over a Bonafont water plant at the beginning of this month, hosting a press conference where they displayed samples of dirty water from the area’s rivers. They also blamed Bonafont for illnesses in the communities and for the drying up of the area’s wells.

Although the company was forced to stop extracting water from the area in March 2021, Pueblos Unidos wants the Bonafont plant removed from the area, saying it represents for them “the company’s plunder from other territories that they are now storing in the Cholulteca region,” which they say they cannot permit.

With reports from La Jornada del Oriente, Desinformemos and El Financiero

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