Residents urge saving the Laja River (part 2)
Por Antonio de Jesús Aguado
Víctor Velázquez, director of the Ecology Department, talked to Atención about residents’ concerns about damage to the Laja River and said that the administration will accept denouncements from residents and channel them to the proper authorities. He said in addition that although they have the authority to arrest those who take down trees or cause environmental damage on the Laja River, when they have conducted inspections they have not found anything amiss going on and have not even encountered members of the Unión de Paleros.
This is a summary of the previous article on this topic. “We are concerned about the stealing of sand and the continued devastation of the Laja River in San Miguelito,” said environmentally concerned residents who live near the river. “We are not stealing sand. We have our permit and we will not be hiding from anyone,” claimed a member of the Unión de Paleros del Laja S.C. (Association of Front Men of the Laja S.C.), which has authorization granted by the CONAGUA (National Commission of Water). “The municipal authorities must be involved in this process. If they need some help from Let’s Save the Laja River we can provide it, in order to inform the federal authorities that the granting of that concession is putting the fragile river ecosystem at risk. For us, as inhabitants of the area, it is worrisome, and actions supported by the municipality must be taken to stop the extraction of sand, which although legal does not respect the clauses of the permit,” commented Agustín Madrigal, director of Salvemos el Río Laja (Let’s Save the Laja River).
Velázquez commented that the duty of his department is to watch over, maintain and have administrative jurisdiction over lakes, rivers and federally owned bodies of water. He made clear that CONAGUA (National Commission of Water) is responsible for addressing residents’ complaints, because his department did not issue the permit. “We are only watching over the river,” he said. The local government, according to Veláquez, does not have any other document issued by the CONAGUA to the Unión de Paleros besides the provisional permit. He said that this year the administration has carried out some inspections but in none of them they have seen people taking down trees or extracting sand clandestinely, or even people working on the river. “They must have a well-structured system of communication that warns them when an inspection will be conducted, so they can get out of the river,” said Velázquez. But he remarked that if “in an inspection people are caught damaging the environment, those responsible can be arrested and taken to the District Attorney’s office.”
In addition, the director said, “We only can try to preserve the Laja River by reporting damage to the corresponding authorities and yes, we are concerned about this situation. We are doing what we can, but it is CONAGUA that issues the permits.” Velázquez said that the Department of Ecology has received some reports from residents who live near the Laja. “When we receive denouncements we conduct an inspection and open a file for the case, and it is sent to the federal authorities.” This year, two reports have been sent to CONAGUA, two to the SEMARNAT (Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources) and two to the PROFEPA (Federal Attorney’s Office for Environmental Protection), but they have not responded. Velázquez said that if there is not a response it is because they accepted the file and are processing it. “We have had some telephone conversations and we have requested inspections in the area,” he commented.
He said that the trees removed in San Miguelito were not older than 10 years, as seen by their height and thickness. He invited residents to report any environmental damage so the Ecology Department can take action.