MEXICO CITY – Representatives of the Yaqui Indian tribe demanded a halt to the operation of an aqueduct in the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora, saying in a meeting with senators that it will leave their communities without water.
“Yaqui elders, men, women, youth and children have come to this city to make ourselves heard because we’re sure that what’s happening on our land is a violation of our rights,” Yaqui spokesman Tomas Rojo said, according to a statement by Mexican civil society organization Serapaz.
Rojo also accused Sonora Gov. Guillermo Padres of continuing “with his crassness of taking our water away with projects like the Independence Aqueduct.”
More than 100 Yaqui Indians, who arrived Friday via caravan in Mexico City to meet with legislators and federal authorities, explained to the senators their position in a long-running dispute with the Sonora government that has included road-blocking protests by the indigenous group.
The 152-kilometer (95-mile) Independence Aqueduct was built at a cost of 4 billion pesos (some $300 million) to transport some 75 million cubic meters of water annually from the Yaqui River to the manufacturing hub of Hermosillo, Sonora’s capital, which has experienced frequent droughts in recent years.
In a ruling last year, Mexico’s Supreme Court said Sonora’s government must halt the aqueduct, which begin operating in April 2013, if studies show it would cause “irreparable harm” to the Yaqui community.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday asked Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration for a report on measures to ensure the aqueduct does not violate the Yaqui people’s rights.
It also said a Supreme Court ruling requiring that that community be consulted about infrastructure works affecting their resources had not been heeded and demanded an explanation.
The senators, for their part, said they understood the Yaqui Indians’ interest in defending their water rights and proposed to draft a measure urging the relevant authorities to hold the public consultation without further delay.