This summer, the David Brower Center, an environmental hub in Berkeley, California, is hosting the exhibition Water, Rivers and People. With images (like this one) of soiled rivers, flooded towns, and citizens mourning the loss of their land, their loved ones and their livelihoods, this remarkable photography exhibit visually displays the human cost of dam building and sheds further light on environmental displacement in today’s world.
While the Water, Rivers and People photographs bear witness to the impacts of dams in India (pictured here) China, Ethiopia, and Guatemala, one of the event’s co-organizers, the International Rivers network, is calling the world to action to stop the construction of another such dam in Mexico.
If built, El Zapotillo dam threatens to drown out the vibrant history, culture and livelihoods of 3,000 people in the Mexican towns of Temacapulin, Acasico and Palmarejo. According to International Rivers, 20 dams have been already been built in Mexico, displacing approximately 167,000 people, most of whom are indigenous and/or living in rural areas lacking economic resources.
And if this dam is built, where, do you suppose, the newly displaced in Mexico will go? Environmental refugees tend to flock to nearby mega-cities within their own countries, or cross an international border to find opportunity in a new land. Mexico, with its proximity to the U.S., is already host to millions of people seeking economic opportunity that, due to domestic government failures and international policies (like NAFTA), are unavailable at home. And as more dams are planned and executed in Mexico, we can expect that more people will be vying for fewer and fewer resources — and will be looking for work anywhere they can find it, even if it means crossing the U.S. border without authorization.
The region’s governor has promised that if over 50% of the population spoke out against the dam, it would be canceled. But he has not kept his promise, despite the fact that over 90% of citizens oppose the dam. This spring, human rights defenders in Mexico were threatened with their lives if they continued to speak out against El Zapotillo. But this hasn’t stopped them. Add your voice to the brave in Mexico so we can put an end to the drowning out of Mexican citizens.
In Mexico, as in other “developing” countries, dams pump money to corrupt government officials and international mega-companies at the expense of human lives. There are other ways to produce energy, such as wind and solar power, that are less damaging to the environment and devastating to communities. Let’s remind Mexico to protect its people and seek more sustainable energy sources.