Mexico City – An alliance of about 20 organizations representing peasants is accusing President Felipe Calderon of supporting the construction of an aqueduct in the northern Mexican state of Sonora sought by local officials and opposed by residents of some communities that will be left without water.
The Independencia Aqueduct will carry about 75 million cubic meters of water (19.8 billion gallons) annually from the Yaqui River to Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora, which has suffered from repeated droughts over the past 16 years.
Many of Hermosillo's 800,000 people have water service for only four hours a day in an area where temperatures can climb to 45 C (113 F) in the summer, city officials said.
The Independencia Aqueduct will affect access to water from the Yaqui River, the Alianza Campesina del Noreste, Movimiento Ciudadano por el Agua, Asociacion de Productores Rurales del Valle del Yaqui and several other grassroots and business organizations said in a joint statement.
The aqueduct project will transfer water to other areas that "belongs exclusively to users of the Yaqui River basin," the groups said.
Sonora Gov. Guillermo Padres and State Water Commission director Enrique Martinez have ignored several court orders calling for the project's suspension, the organizations said.
The federal government is allowing Sonora to violate the law "with impunity" and "supports it with resources," the groups said.
Complaints filed with federal and state prosecutors have not been investigated, with "more than 11 months passing" since the filings occurred, the organizations said.
The federal Attorney General's Office, however, quickly issued several "orders to appear" to dozens of people who attended a protest against the project and blocked a road in the town of Yaqui de Vicam, the groups said.
Federal security forces cleared the protesters on Sept. 9, the organizations said.
Local officials got a court order authorizing them to move ahead with the water project, Martinez, the State Water Commission chief, told a radio station last week.
The water commission director acknowledged, however, that the same judge also issued an order halting construction of the project.
"There is a series of terrible contradictions in this case that will also come to light later," Martinez said.
Sonora officials contend that 900 million cubic meters (237.7 billion gallons) of water are lost annually in the Yaqui Valley due to lack of infrastructure.