Water scarcity in Mexico City divides rich and poor - GulfToday

Water scarcity in Mexico City divides rich and poor

Experts say sustainable management with proper water storage facilities and modern infrastructure is key to mitigating the problem.

Experts say sustainable management with proper water storage facilities and modern infrastructure is key to mitigating the problem.

While the large lake which is at the giant dam site of Valle De Bravo has water levels 32 per cent less than its capacity, and the lake bed of parched and cracked earth is exposed, many of the private estates of the rich around have brimful of private lakes inside. There is of course the argument whether the private lakes are drawing water from public sources, or are they contributing to the water resources of the area by creating these water bodies.

The drying up of Vale De Bravo is now recognised to be the diminution of rainfall, the rivers and streams feeding the reservoir turning into a trickle, a clear consequence of the climate change. Vale de Bravo also feeds the Cutzmala System which is two hours away from Mexico City but serves water to six million of its population. Decreasing water levels mean misery for millions of the city-dwellers. The water that is available is mainly used by the industries and the tourism spots, depriving millions of poor of the basic necessity of life.

The views about the merits and demerits of private lakes take a sharp turn among the people. “I wish (private lakes) didn’t exist,” says Eduardo Maza, a member of the local organisation, Communities Organised for Water (COA). “But if they do exist, they should be done properly and without harming others.”

Jose Rosas, a permaculture expert, who has designed many of the private lakes on the ranches, points to the advantages saying that they attract birds and animals. According to Rosas, the private lakes account for less than one per cent of the water bodies in the country. “I’m not telling you that they don’t have bad points, surely they do. But the environmental benefits are much greater.”

Michelle Nunez, municipal president of Vale de Bravo, says there is no system of permit for creating these private lakes, and she feels that the owners of the private lakes should submit to inspection that the lakes they have created capture rain water and they do not draw away from public water sources. “It is very selfish…to have those lakes at those levels when there are families that depend 100 per cent on income (from the dam), that are being extremely defeated,” she said.

This is a complex dilemma. On the one hand, the effects of climate change are playing out on a large scale including rising temperatures, diminishing rainfall, increase in population. And at the local level, in places like Mexico City, which is one of the largest urban sprawls, there is a direct conflict of interest between the majority of the poor people who suffer the most because of climate change, and the few rich who can manage to create little oases of their own in their ranches with lakes embedded in them. This gives rise to the polarisation between the rich and the poor, and it becomes a social menace in its own terms.

Climate change is not just a physical damage in the patterns of weather, but it has crucial economic, social fallouts, and it becomes difficult for the governments to manage the tension between the two groups. No government can for long ignore the hardship of millions of people, and the rich owners’ private estates and private lakes cannot hope to live in security and peace.

The challenge of climate change throws up the political challenge of providing relief to all the sections of society, and there has to be a fair allocation of available resources. It should not come as a surprise that climate change can drive economic and political change.


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