El Zapotillo Dam Slotted to Flood Three Mexican Towns

Published on April 21st, 2010 | by

As the world’s demand for water grows, dam projects are proposed that negatively affect human rights and the environment.  The El Zapotill0 Dam in Mexico is no exception, and protests have even resulted in death threats.  The towns of Temacapulín, Acasico, and Palmarejo will be flooded with a grave loss to central Mexican culture and history when construction is completed on the El Zapotillo Dam.

Photo by adaptingtoscarcityEl Zapotillo Dam will flood Temacapulín
El Zapotillo Dam will flood Temacapulín

The El Zapotillo Reservoir will cost $406 million to construct.  Construction has already begun despite six appeals.  Business News America reports:

Residents have appealed against the project, alleging that authorities failed to inform them properly of the impact the reservoir would have…

Residents have been given the option of selling their houses for market value, being relocated to an area 1km from their original place of residence, or having their homes expropriated for a minimum payment, the official added.

Furthermore, the water stored in the reservoir will not even be used to quench the thirst of the Jalisco state in which it is located, but it would be diverted 87 miles to neighboring Guanajuato.  José Antonio Gómez Reyna of Guadalajara University explains:

They haven’t provided a real solution for how to provide water to people in the Altos de Jalisco area where El Zapotillo will be located.

Even if it is technically feasible to build a dam or a reservoir, you have to consider the ecological and social effects. I think diverting rivers is the worst thing you can do. Achieving an ecological balance has to do with respecting nature and having the minimum impact possible. If taking a river and moving it from one place to another isn’t impacting nature, I don’t know what is.

Another dam was proposed in the Arcediano, but it was postponed “indefinitely” due to high costs.

According to a report by Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental, International Rivers, and the Asociacion Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente, large dams in Latin America disproportionately affect indigenous people:

We also show how local families suffer when they are displaced or forcefully evicted by dams and lose valuable farmland, water sources, or traditional fishing areas.  We further document how the people most harmed by large dams are those from disadvantaged populations, including indigenous, afro-descendent, and poor farming communities.

Similar to other dam projects around the world, the historical loss from El Zapotillo is depressing to consider. Coupled with human rights abuses and environmental degradation, opposition is logical in the face of threats and intimidation.  We must find alternatives for quenching the Mexico’s thirst to preserve the cultural heritage and ecology of the region.


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