ELAW scientist Meche Lu (left) and IDEA attorney Raquel Gutierrez at the Arcediano Dam site showing destroyed homes

Sometimes it takes just one person to change the world.  Mrs. Lupita Lara is one of those people who took a stand and changed the world for her community with the help of ELAW and our partners in Mexico.

In southern Mexico, plans were made to build the Arcediano Dam on the Santiago River to provide water for the residents of Guadalajara.  Arcediano has been the subject of national and international outrage because of the scope of the environmental and human rights impacts.  Not only would the building of the dam destroy sensitive ecosystems, but there were significant health risks associated with the water flowing to Guadalajara.

Despite the risks, Mrs. Lara refused to leave her home, which was in the way of the building of the dam.   She had lived there with her sister and her elderly mother (who has since passed away) for many years, and when her neighbors accepted small remuneration to relocate, Mrs. Lara stayed and fought the project. She found an ally in Raquel Gutierrez, an attorney with the Instituto De Derecho Ambiental (IDEA, A.C.).

Raquel filed actions in every tribunal and agency with potential influence on the process (including the environmental commission created by the North American Free Trade Agreement) on behalf of the community and Mrs. Lara.  Early on, she enlisted the help of ELAW attorneys to help build her arguments against the dam. ELAW Staff Scientist Meche Lu reviewed the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and traveled to the area in 2004 to meet with Raquel and community members, and observe first-hand the proposed project site.  Meche found major flaws in the EIA because it failed to adequately assess the environmental risks associated with the project.

Despite concerns about the project, it was given preliminary approval in 2003.  However, for these past six years, Mrs. Lara and IDEA continued battling, and on December 11th, the Mexican Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources revoked its 2003 authorization for the project because of the environmental havoc it would have caused.

This is a huge victory for Mrs. Lara, IDEA, ELAW and, most importantly, the people of Mexico who will be spared the environmental, health and human rights violations that would have occurred by the building of the Arcediano Dam.