advocate
ELAW Advocate: Winter 2010

Señora Lara's Victory

 Lupita Lara
Señora Lara

Lupita Lara’s home stood in the way of plans by the government of Mexico to dam the Santiago River, near Guadalajara City.  The government of Mexico claimed that damming the Santiago River near the Arcediano bridge would provide drinking water to Guadalajara and the surrounding areas. Unfortunately, the Santiago River is highly polluted, the dam was proposed for a protected area, and the reservoir it would have created would have flooded the community of Arcediano.

Señora Lara called on ELAW partner Raquel Gutierrez to help protect her home and the village of Arcediano, and won!

Arcediano Bridge
Arcediano Bridge

Throughout the approval process, the Mexican government worked to push the inhabitants of Arcediano off their lands. Señora Lara, her sister, and her elderly mother had the road to their home barricaded and phones and electricity cut off.  Many homes and a chapel in Arcediano were destroyed.

Arcediano has been the subject of national and international outrage because of the scope of the environmental and human rights impacts, and because Señora Lara persisted.  As she watched the homes around her destroyed, she refused to leave her own home.

Señora Lara found an ally in Raquel Gutierrez, an attorney with the grassroots environmental law organization, Instituto de Derecho Ambiental (IDEA). Raquel has worked for years to protect Lake Chapala and the entire watershed near Guadalajara.

Raquel worked with the community and Señora Lara and challenged the project in every tribunal and agency with potential influence on the process.  Early on, she enlisted ELAW attorneys and scientists to help build her arguments.

Despite concerns about the project, the dam was given preliminary approval in 2003. 

"This news brings joy...
many thanks to our team."

- Raquel Gutierrez

Señora Lara's home
Señora Lara's home

In 2004, ELAW Environmental Research Scientist Meche Lu traveled to the area to meet with Raquel, Señora Lara, and community members.  Meche reviewed the Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed dam and found major flaws – it failed to adequately assess the environmental and public health risks associated with damming the Santiago River.

For six years, Señora Lara and IDEA continued battling.  On December 11, 2009, the Mexican Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources revoked its 2003 authorization for the project.

When Señora Lara heard the news, “she didn’t believe it,” says Raquel, who is now working to move Señora Lara back home.

This is a huge victory for Señora Lara, IDEA, ELAW and, most importantly, the people of Mexico!

Congratulations to Señora Lara and Raquel for their patience and perseverance.