Entire Mexican government set environmental goals for the first time

A new five-year action plan will have the involvement of all 14 departments of state for the first time in Mexican history and sets ambitious targets for the government and the nation as a whole.

The National Programme for the Environment and Natural Resources 2001-2006, has been “born out of the prevailing need for Mexican society to substantially change the environmental politics of the country,” says environment minister Víctor Lichtinger. With the involvement of all government departments in a joint vision the minister hopes to at last make environmental progress where before it has failed because of a lack of joint aims and commitments, he says. Lichtinger said that the plan provides a blueprint for all developing nations to use in building a more sustainable future.

The ambitious objectives set for the nation as a whole by 2006 include: that 89% of the population, or 94 million people will have potable water; 65% of household wastewater will be treated; the nation’s forest cover will be increased by some 4,000 square miles (10,000 sq km), as in the last 20 years 59% of Mexican forests have been lost; some 16,000 square miles (40,000 sq km), or 80% of Mexican forest will be managed sustainably, up from the current 25%; and that 10 priority endangered species will be recuperated.

Of the 43 aims that governmental departments have pledged to fulfil, the most notable are: that the national oil company, Pemex, which controls stocks of the one of the world’s 10 biggest oil producers, has committed to reducing noxious emissions from 3.37 tonnes per million tonnes of oil, gas or petrochemicals to 2.93 tonnes per million by 2006; the Ministry of Communications and Transport will devote 4% of its budget to environmental improvements; and the Ministry of Health will attempt to reduce the level of lead found in the blood of children aged under five by 70%.

The head of the national water company, Conagua, Cristóbal Jaime Jáquez, after revealing that the number of overexploited aquifers had increased from 32 in 1975 to 96 last year, committed the company to six new objectives: to achieve efficiency of water use in agriculture as between 20 and 50% of water is wasted by agricultural and other uses; to improve the coverage and quality of potable water and water treatment; achieve the sustainable management of aquifers and river basins; to promote the development of the hydraulic sector; to promote the sustainable use of water among the public; and to decrease the risk of floods and drought.

Also announcing major new initiatives was the head of the National Forestry Commission, Alberto Cárdenas, who said that “major surgery” was necessary to combat forces of corruption, tax evasion and contraband which have compounded the country’s serious deforestation problem. In the six year plan, Cárdenas pledges to promote the education of Mexicans about preserving their forests, increase regional co-operation and information provision in fighting deforestation in this highly decentralised nation, and recruit volunteers to help in afforestation projects.

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