Halt to the Destruction of the Laja River
By Jesús Aguado
Demonstrators have complained about the extraction of petrous materials from the Laja River, but neither the federal nor the local authorities have paid attention to the problem.
Neighbors against the extraction of sand and gravel commented that the extraction has been occurring since January of this year, and the problem is that workers are extracting the material with heavy machinery which damages the roots of the trees, causing them to die. The machinery is also damaging roads between la Cieneguita and Montecillo de Nieto used to cross the river. It pollutes the water and kills the frogs, turtles, and fish that the inhabitants of the surrounding areas catch for food. “We are calling the ecology organizations to find out what is happening here. We need their help to take the nonconformities to the competent authorities,” activist Hilaria Ramirez, resident of a nearby community, stated. Ramírez arrived at the extraction area with other women bearing a banner that said, “Halt the destruction of our rivers.”
Local activist and ecologist Arturo Morales commented that nothing is known about the permits granted by the National Commission of Water for the extraction of gravel and sand from the river. However, he remarked that those concessionaires are abusing the permit because the most appropriate method is to extract the materials with shovels to avoid digging more than one meter. “They are taking advantage of the permit,” said Morales. He compared it to having a permit for driving a standard vehicle in the historic center and abusing it by driving an eighteen wheeler through the streets of el Centro.
“This is an example of the abuse of permits to damage the fragile ecosystems,” he noted, also commenting there is evidence that the machinery has dug more than four meters deep. What the concessions are doing is causing serious damage to the rivers, damage that will take more than 10 years to be repaired. Extraction is also causing the creation of small islands in the center of the rivers, which are changing the river’s natural route, and this, said Morales, will lead to drought during the dry season. Some complaints have been lodged at the Federal Attorney’s Office for Environmental Protection.
One of the workers told Atención that three men are extracting the sand from 7am to 7pm, and they can fill more than 25 hoppers “not daily, but when the weather allows us to work.” He said that they are paid 1,500 pesos a week. He also advised that two months ago one of their machines was set on fire by those who are against the extraction. Hilaria Ramírez defended herself and her group, commenting that they are peaceful demonstrators, and they are against violence.
The worker also told Atención that the concessionaire is José Luis Chávez, who lives in the state of México. He has not called him for two months. “I do not have his phone number,” said the employee. The sand has been stored on the road to Guanajuato.
Personnel from CONAGUA arrived to conduct an inspection, making it clear that it was only for those involved—concessionaires and CONAGUA. The worker said that if the media needed more information, they could call the CONAGUA office on Tuesday, June 30.