LAGUNA RAISED THE QUESTION OF INVASIONS OF LAKE CHAPALA AT THE INFORMATION MEETING ANNOUNCING THE FORMATION OF THE PUEBLO MÁGICO COMMITTEE THIS WEEK AT THE AJIJIC CULTURAL CENTER
Ajijic, Jalisco. As this and other newspapers have reported extensively, the problem of illegal “invasions” of Lake Chapala – the illegal use of land along the shoreline by private individuals or businesses – is serious and growing.
There are regulations to prevent the illegal use of the Lake Chapala shoreline but the regulating authority is Federal – the National Water Commission, (CONAGUA). The delegations and municipalities that adjoin the lake have little enforcement powers. The Chapala municipality has passed legislation giving themselves the power to levy fines for pollution and dumping, but it may not cover the actual lakeshore, which is Federal.
There is no clear demarcation of where Federal jurisdiction ends and local jurisdiction begins – and landowners discourage municipalities from using pollution ordinances by suing, claiming their land is under Federal, not local control. CONAGUA has not issued a detailed map locals can use for enforcement
Another issue affected by the lack of demarcation of the Federal lands is access to shorelines for residents and Pueblo Mágico visitors. President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), published a decree in the Official Journal of the Federal (DOF) guaranteeing free access and transit on beaches throughout the country, including, presumably, the Federal beaches of Lake Chapala. The decree establishes a fine of 1 million pesos against anyone found blocking access – no fines have been levied in Lakeside despite many sites that block access to the Lake.
In 2011 UNESCO/UNWater, the World Health Organization, and CONAGUA jointly published the Lerma-Chapala Basin Case Study, detailing the ecological, social, and economic problems of the Lake and suggested a legal framework – the Lerma-Chapala River Basin Council – for protecting the Lake. But attempts to give the Council the tools and authority to enforce regulations were blocked, partially due to resistance from CONAGUA, jealous of its authority.
But research shows that CONAGUA does not use its authority. A groundbreaking story published by the Guadalajara Reporter in November 2020 (“CONAGUA Has Abandoned Surveillance of Lake Chapala Against Coastal Invasions”) documented the agency’s failure.
The TGR reporters used transparency requests to get CONAGUA records showing that its last inspection in Jocotepec was in 2017 (the Regional Director toured the Ribera’s shoreline in 2020 but took no action) the last sanctions it issued were also in 2017. TGR reporters also found that the Lerma-Santiago Pacifico Basin Agency’s last inspection was in 2019 which found 85 shoreline invaders with no permits, but apparently, no fines were levied (12.4 million pesos in fines were levied between 2010 and 2013, but none recently).
Fortunately, some local enforcement has occurred through the Chapala municipality after outcries from citizens and some illegal dredging and filling have been stopped locally using local ordinances, despite the Federal jurisdiction problem, but it is hit and miss (see the story in this edition “Local Resident block thieves from stealing soil from the Lake”.) Local offices have the will but not the staff and budget to monitor the shoreline and enforce the regulations
Laguna asked Monica Venegas Sánchez , Jalisco Directora de Turismo Rural y Pueblo Mágicos, what, if anything , her office or the Pueblo Mágico Committee for Ajijic can do about the invasions of Lake Chapala that are making it distinctly unmagical. Her response was that the enforcement was Federal, not state and that the first priority of the Committee was to “protect the “patrimony” of Ajijic. However, she did say emphatically that she and her committee can and will lobby for elements in the Pueblo Mágico Ajijic Plan to address invasions and enforcement.
Lake Chapala is a regional resource and a national treasure. Its management embodies dynamics far beyond the creation of a Pueblo Mágico in one of the many municipalities on its shores. Its preservation will involve multiple government agencies, – some of which prefer the status quo. But with climate change, development, Pueblo Mágico planning, and immigration, the status quo is not “quo” and will never be.
A bicycle tour of the coast of California in 1972 kicked off a political movement in California USA that led to the creation of the independent California Coastal Commission with the authority, budget, staff, and determination to end invasions of the California coast. It did and still does. Can a magic town do the same for Lake Chapala? The legal structure is there; all its needs is the political will. Maybe that’s the magic.