Extraction of Petrous Materials Is Prohibited in the Laja
By Jesús Aguado
After the denunciation by citizens and environmentalists of the extraction of petrous materials that put the flora and fauna of the Laja river at risk on the course between Montecillo de Nieto-Cieneguita, the delegate of the National Commission of Water in Guanajuato, Humberto Navarro de Alva, announced that all extractions in that river are illegal, and there are no concessions for anybody.
In a visit to San Miguel de Allende, Navarro commented that he wanted to give certainty and tranquility to the Guanajuatense committed environmentalists. He emphasized that along the 130 kilometers of the Laja River “there are not any concessions for extracting petrous materials.” The delegate assured that what the Sanmiguelenses denounced clearly attempts to go against the national natural heritage, remarking, “CONAGUA will not be just a spectator.” For that reason they began administrative complaints against those who could be found responsible for the sacking of sand and gravel from the Laja.
Navarro de Alva noted that the penalties will go from economic fines to imprisonment. Navarro remembered that at the end of 2010, there was a problem in the Laja River in Dolores Hidalgo, where CONAGUA granted a concession for the extraction of materials to the Cooperativa Desarrollo Sustentable. People from 12 rural communities were against the damage of the river and formed the organization “No más arena”—No More Sand—that stopped the sacking by taking the heavy machinery of the Cooperativa. The case was analyzed with Navarro heading CONAGUA, and the concession was revoked.
“When there are conflicts that put tranquility and social peace at risk, we ought to take actions,” said Navarro. He assured that CONAGUA will not hesitate to apply the law against those responsible in San Miguel. “The preservation of the aquifers is our obligation,” he stated.
On June 24, before actions to stop the extractions, the residents of two rural communities, nearby La Cieneguita and Montecillo de Nieto, held a peaceful demonstration at the river. They were bearing a banner with the legend, “No to the destruction of our rivers.” Hilaria Ramírez, representative of the neighbors, commented that the sacking has been happening since January this year. She denounced the concessionaire, who was using heavy machinery that was damaging the root of the trees that would later die. And the fauna: turtles, frogs, and fish were disappearing.
One of the employees extracting sand told Atención that the concessionaire had just three people working there from 7am-7pm, filling at least 25 hoppers daily “when the weather let us work.” They were making 1,500 pesos a week. The employee told us that those against the extraction set a machine on fire two months ago. Hilaria Ramírez said that they (her group) did not do it because they are peaceful protestors and are against violence. The worker also declared that the concessionaire was José Luis Chávez, from the state of Mexico, but he had not seen him in two months nor did he have his phone number.
The delegate of CONAGUA invited the citizens to report extractions of sand and gravel from the Laja River by calling 014-6115-9959-0 extension 1201. He will personally take the call.