The newly established Cahoacán River Watershed Committee in Chiapas, southwest Mexico, will aim to coordinate programmes and actions towards a more effective administration for the preservation of watershed resources and development of hydraulic infrastructures.
Since 2008, the IUCN Cahoacán project, with support from Fundación Gonzalo Río Arrronte (FGRA) and IUCN Member Sociedad de Historia Natural del Soconusco (SHNS), has carried out activities for the promotion, advocacy and coordination of efforts to integrate institutions, organisations and projects related to the watershed. This inter-institutional commission made possible the participatory reflection about the need to define, form and set up the watershed committee.
Uphill deforestation and erosion in the watershed are rapidly increasing the risk of floods and mudslides. In the middle of the catchment, sugar cane and coffee industries pollute the water and larger-scale farming degrades the available lands. Downstream, water scarcity in the dry season poses serious problems to the riparian communities and industries. In the Chiapas region, water from the Cahoacán River is mainly used for irrigation (54% of the surface water) whilst approximately 36% of the river’s waters are for human consumption and agribusiness activities.
Working together to address these environmental challenges is crucial towards the success of the project. A first step in the process of the project was to inform municipal presidents and their councils, and disseminate the proposal to other sectors of civil society in Mexico. Other actors and water users of the Cahoacán River were identified with the support of Mexico’s National Water Commission (CONAGUA).
The established watershed committee will provide the foundation for better land planning and more comprehensive and sustainable management of natural resources, and in particular, facilitate the analysis, linkages and understanding of how the area and its inhabitants are affected by aspects related to:
a) vulnerability and risk management;
b) contamination of river flows from solid and liquid waste;
c) adequate supply of ecosystem goods and services;
d) the watershed’s biological performance as a consequence of climate variability and change; e) effects of good or poor land-use planning;
f) activities for torrent control and rapid response in the watershed;
g) identification and prioritisation of intervention areas (critical areas); and
h) identification of flood zones through hydrological modelling and scenario prediction.
Based on the work and experiences of other watershed committees, an initial proposal was designed so the committee’s structure would operate autonomously and with participatory vision. The Cahoacán River Watershed Committee is defined as “operating as a representative, multidisciplinary, and intersectoral organisation for the recognition, prioritisation, planning, and administration of comprehensive and sustainable projects on the use of water and associated resources, through a management plan that will serve as the guiding instrument for administration of this territory in the near, medium, and long term future”.
The committee consists of official and substitute representatives of the following organizations: National Water Commission (CONAGUA), National Commission on Protected Areas (CONANP), the State Water Institute, Secretariat of Environment and Housing of the State of Chiapas, the municipal governments of Cahoacán, Tapachula, Tuxtla Chico, Suchiate and Frontera Hidalgo, and representatives of water users, civil society organisations, and academic institutions.
For more information contact:
Cristina Yépez Pacheco
Coordinator Cahoacán Project IUCN – SHNS – FGRA
7ª Avenida Sur Esq. 10ª Oriente N° 22
CP 30890 Cacahoatán, Chiapas, Mexico
Tel./Fax: +52 -962-622-11-22
Carlos R. Rosal Del Cid
Officer, Water Management Unit
IUCN Regional Office for Mesoamerica and the Caribbean Initiative