Conagua tolerates invasions in Chapala, Jalisco

Lake Chapala is a source of employment for locals. (El Informador)

In the current administration, there are 36 complaints for intrusions in the federal zone, but only one sanction, which is also not applied because the offender is protected.

At the beginning of October, he highlighted that the Jocotepec City Council reported to the National Water Commission (Conagua) the invasion of an individual in Lake Chapala, in the San Cristóbal Zapotitlán Delegation. This action is added to another 36 complaints that have been filed between January 2019 and August 2023, according to the federal government. 

However, it only followed up on a quarter of the complaints. In the only process that culminated in a sanction, the individual took refuge. For the above, there are no punishments, according to information provided by Transparency.

In addition to the invasions, the inhabitants denounce dredging; That is, individuals remove material from the lake to make it deeper, which damages the ecosystem. 

For their part, the City Councils responded that they could not act because it is a federal zone, in charge of Conagua.

The Pueblos Unidos de la Ribera del Lago y sus Cuencas association reports that they have personally gone to the Conagua offices in Mexico City, but have not followed up on the complaints, despite the evidence provided.

Eduardo Juárez Carrillo, director of the Institute of Limnology at the University of Guadalajara, explains that dredging is an action carried out to build docks. “A permit from Conagua is required since an environmental impact study is needed to evaluate the effects.”

They tolerate invasions in the lake basin. El Informador/Archive

“Even municipal services give to the invader”

The United Peoples of the Lakeside and its Basins association has been one of the most active in relation to the defense of the lake basin. A member, who requests anonymity because he claims that they have received threats, affirms that they have filed several complaints with Conagua for invasions and dredging on the site.

“We filed a complaint with satellite and physical photographs, as well as coordinates, and they asked us to provide a name and address. They don’t want to do their homework because we already have complaints like that with names, even municipal services give them to that invader,” he asserts.

The person explains that, at a minimum, each invader steals one hectare. “And how much is the square meter in front of the Lake worth 20 thousand pesos? Millions are being stolen. The municipalities are complicit because there are federal invasions that have deeds… why do they ask us for a name and address if the complaints are not going to succeed? 

He explains that the invasions began in 2005, but they began with actions such as removing fences in 2019, with the aim of making the problem visible.

In 2019 they began to remove fences. 

“Practically it was so that they would turn to see us, because neither the municipality of Chapala nor Conagua paid attention to us. We recently went to Mexico City. They are not only invasions, they are dredging. There was a beach, a wetland, with several tules, and they used backhoes to remove material from the lake. With that extraction they filled in four hectares of the material they were extracting from the lake, that is what they do to make a marina. Conagua affirms that there are no permits for dredging.”

He adds that last August they filed a complaint, but highlights that although they made the inspection visit, they were not informed of the follow-up. “We don’t know anything because there is no closure. We began to pressure to such a degree that the City Council came out with a publication that they made a complaint, but it is because of the pressure we have exerted. The first thing you have to do as a municipal government is to close it.”

Another of the complaints they issued in the meeting they had with the Technical Committee of Conagua in Mexico City, was to suspend construction and earthworks in the federal zone. “His response is that it was up to the City Council, in relation to construction permits. If the law were applied, Conagua would have to say that they are spaces of the nation and recover them.”

There are only three Conagua inspectors for Chapala

The National Water Commission (Conagua) has only three public servants registered to carry out inspection visits in the Lerma Santiago Pacífico basin, to which Lake Chapala belongs.

The basin organizations are established in the administrative hydrological regions Baja California Peninsula, Northwest, North Pacific, Balsas, South Pacific, Río Bravo, Northern Central Basins, Lerma Santiago Pacific, Northern Gulf, Central Gulf, Southern Border, Yucatan Peninsula and Waters of the Valley of Mexico.

The State Water Commission explains that the Lerma-Santiago-Pacific basin begins southwest of the City of Toluca, with the source of the Lerma River, continues its journey through the State of Mexico in its northwest portion, and continues as a dividing line between the states of Querétaro and Michoacán, through the state of Guanajuato, later it is located on the limits of Jalisco, Michoacán and Guanajuato, to flow into Lake Chapala, through a route of approximately 734 kilometers.

“In the northwest part of Lake Chapala, near the town of Ocotlán, the Santiago River is born, which after traveling 460 kilometers through the States of Jalisco and Nayarit, empties into the Pacific Ocean, near the town of San Blas, in the State of Nayarit.”

An example of the decrease in productivity related to inspections is the follow-up to complaints in Lake Chapala, which belongs to this basin.

In this administration, 36 complaints were filed for invasion of the federal zone of Lake Chapala, which due to geographical distribution mainly affected the municipality of Chapala (16), followed by Jocotepec (8), Ocotlán (4), Jamay (3), Poncitlán (2), La Barca (2) and Tuxcueca (1). By year in which the complaint was received, one was filed in 2019, another in 2020, 13 in 2021, 11 in 2022, and 10 complaints between January and August 2023, although only nine were followed up and the rest have the status of “reception agreement”.

Article 171 of the Regulation of the National Water Law indicates that works for channeling, dredging, limitation or partial or total drying of nationally owned water streams and reservoirs may only be carried out, with prior permission from the “Commission”, which will determine the form and terms to execute said works.

“The Commission, within the scope of its jurisdiction, may allow the construction of canals and docks on the banks or federal areas of streams, lakes, or lagoons under its responsibility. The permit referred to in this article may be processed jointly with the concession of the federal zone by “The Commission” when this is required for the approved project or due to the activity to be carried out.

Some individuals who have invaded Lake Chapala have excavated in the lake basin. El Informador. Navarrese

Legal actions and consequences

Although from January 2019 to August 2023, Conagua received 36 complaints about invasions of Lake Chapala, belonging to the Lerma Santiago Pacífico basin, it shared through Transparency through folio 330009423002703 that they only made nine inspection visits, with the following results:

2019. Initiation of proceedings for alleged violations of the provisions of section IV of Article 119 of the National Water Law. Although the process dates back to 2019, the legal status is that a resolution has yet to be issued.

2020. There was an inspection visit in which no faults were detected.

2021. There was an inspection visit in which no faults were detected.

2021. This visit is the only one in which a sanction was imposed for incurring the offenses provided for in sections IV and XX of Article 119 of the National Water Law, but the individual or legal entity resorted to protection.

2023. There are five open procedures that are just in the process of qualifying the facts recorded in the visit report, which allows for determining whether or not there is conduct contrary to the National Water Law.

Information: Conagua Transparency.

In the only sanction imposed on an invader, Conagua found that the individual failed to comply with sections IV and XX of Article 119 of the National Water Law. But he protected himself.

Section IV describes that it is prohibited to “occupy or take advantage of vessels, channels, canals, federal zones, protection zones and other assets referred to in Article 113 of this Law, without the concession title.” 

Section XX refers to “modifying or diverting channels, vessels or currents when they are national property, without the corresponding permit when a hydraulic work of national property is damaged or destroyed.”

The behaviors considered in both sections are penalized with a fine of 1,950 to 26,000 Measurement and Update Units ( UMA ), that is, from 202,293 pesos to 2.6 million pesos.

To punish offenses, infractions will be classified according to the seriousness of the offense, the economic conditions of the offender, and recidivism.

Source: El Informador

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