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Q&A: Raúl Garciadiego Helps Restore Access to Water in the Tehuacán Valley
Raúl Hernández Garciadiego, Director General of the NGO Alternativas, has been a key figure in fighting these challenges. Garciadiego says the last several years have been filled with both progress and setbacks, including the loss of a major community organizer, Dona Francisca.
Today, Garciadiego says the Tehuacán county has some of the highest rates of cervical and breast cancer in the country, with four to five new cases reported weekly, according to local media. People in the area chalk this up as another affect of the area’s poor water supply.
Meanwhile, Alternativas has sought collaborative partnerships with CONAGUA, the National Water Commission of Mexico, and the Rotary Foundation, an international humanitarian nonprofit, to find tangible solutions for these compounded issues. As Garciadiego reflects on Tehuacán’s past, he looks forward the environmental future of Mexico as the country prepares to host the next United Nations Climate Change conference in November.
How has the Water Forever program within Alternativas fared since Circle of Blue’s last report?
This Water Forever program has been pushed by Alternativas, but been embraced by the villages. We have now served more than 200 villages with 200,000-plus inhabitants. Together we have built many water works. In December we had finished 2,119 projects that have built 7,500 water works of different sizes.
I say without false modesty that, after we received a Latin American and Caribbean award in 2005, we received a national ecological merit award. We also received national agricultural awards in 2005 and 2008 for our amaranth program. Because of all these recognitions we have been invited to make presentations to every one of the villages from the Bank of Mexico, the highest institution for financial rural development, to show them that there is a different way to address the water issues.
Now we have 350 people working full time, and we’ve become a major NGO in the country.
What is Water Forever’s strategy for water management?
We do not have to drill water wells and pump the water out. We need to take care of water flow all the way down the mountains to the valley in order to retain water and use it as first use.
An important piece of technology is biodigesters at the family level. Each family will not be connected to sewage pipeline. They will process their own family waste in a 2-cubic-meter biodigester facility connected to a small garden that acts as a filtering area where they can grow trees, gardens, vegetables, or whatever they want to have. That will be irrigated and biofertilized from the roots, so there will be no risk of contamination.
Our villages are committed to not throwing waste into water and not throwing waste into septic pipes that contaminate down stream. They are committed to a clean watershed. They made a proclamation: We commit ourselves not to contaminate water for all people located down stream.
We expect this to be recognized in the future as a hydrologic service.
By Andrew Maddocks
Circle of Blue
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