Written by Dale Hoyt Palfrey
Guadalajara Reporter, Saturday, 07 February 2009
CHAPALA - While the February 2 formal designation of Lake Chapala as a Ramsar wetlands site increases the weight of responsibility on the shoulders of government officials at all levels, it also augurs a new paradigm to more directly involve the public in lake conservation efforts and related policy-making.
Under the precepts of the Ramsar Convention, community groups, academic institutions and the productive sector gain a more powerful role in the conservation of Lake Chapala and its ecosystem.
The designation itself is being hailed as a significant victory for the environmentalists that have relentlessly pushed the initiative over recent years. Their success in gaining the support of state and federal agency officials is interpreted as a sign that the door is opening for non-government organizations (NGOs), academic institutions and private citizens keen on playing a significant role in the development and implementation of a comprehensive lake management plan that will now come to the table.
During the Monday inauguration of Jalisco’s Wetlands Conservation Week program held at Chapala’s Centro Cultural Gonzalez Gallo, featured speakers Guillermo Barba and Alejandro Juarez outlined the particulars of Ramsar status and immediate steps that will follow.
Barba, a research professor at the University of Guadalajara laid out Chapala’s natural, economic and cultural values, the operational scheme of the Jalisco Wetlands Protection Committee, and the involvement of government agencies, the NGOs and community-based organizations in action plans. Juarez, who heads the non-profit Corazon de la Tierra environment group, reviewed some of the specific problems that will be addressed through individual management programs for the Lower Lerma, Zula, Duero and La Pasion river basins that feed into the lake, as well as for the north and south shore corridors, the Isla de los Alacranes and migratory bird refuge areas.
The action plans will include strategies to maximize efficient water use, control and prevent pollution, conserve biodiversity and wildlife, promote social involvement, and manage productive activities and regional growth for sustainable development.