Mexico retracts statements on hazardous dump on O'odham sacred land

Mexico retracted statements about approvals for a hazardous waste dump in Quitovac in O'odham territory, where annual ceremonies are held, after being pressured by O'odham and Greenaction.
O'odham, the International Indian Treaty Council and Greenaction plan a protest on Oct. 12 at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco on Indigenous Peoples Day.

Mexico retracts statements on hazardous dump on O'odham sacred land

By Brenda Norrell

QUITOVAC, Mexico – Mexico has retracted statements about a approvals for a proposed hazardous waste dump near the O’odham sacred site of Quitovac where annual ceremonies are held, near the international border.
O’odham in Sonora, Mexico, did not learn of the proposed hazardous dump in their community until nearly one year after Mexico issued a federal permit. However, the US EPA knew in 2005. Finally, a whistleblower exposed the dump to O’odham and they began protests in May of 2006.
Mexico’s SEMARNAT, Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, has now reversed its earlier statements and admits that neither the local government nor the US EPA has given final approval for the dump in O’odham territory.
Alfonso Flores Ramirez, Secretary of SEMARNAT, responded to Greenaction, after the environmental organization took action on behalf of O’odham who asked the organization for help.
Flores said, “As you said, there are some misunderstandings about the hazardous waste landfill in Sonora Mexico, the first one and the principal one about the support for the local government from Plutarco Elias Calles to the project. In this case you are right, the local government for the municipality does not support the project, and even though when this project already has the authorizations from the federal government, without the local permit, the project just can´t start and operate.”
Ramirez said the truth was that some people from the US EPA had issued a personal opinion about the project, but the official position of the US EPA has not been issued. The US EPA is currently assessing the project, Flores said.
Ofelia Rivas, O’odham representative, said protests and demonstrations would proceed at the Mexican Consulates in opposition to the dump.
“It is justifiable that the government own up to their mistakes and correct these mistakes. We hope to receive a public announcement of this action.”
Rivas said a public announcement should be made, because personal communications will not result in the governments being held accountable.
“The government does not ‘see’ the O'odham out there on the lands. They see lands that are not in their control and they see lands that look barren. These lands are sacred to us, the Creator did not mandate the O'odham to build massive constructions and overpopulate the areas, but the Creator did mandate that we live off the land and along with all the plants and life that is in there natural environment,” Rivas said.
Bradley Angel with Greenaction, pressed Mexico to admit the facts.
“It is scandalous that the Mexican government had claimed in a letter to Greenaction on August 16th that the project had the support of the three levels of Government in Mexico when that was not true, as they now admit,” Angel said.
“We join the O’odham people in calling on the Mexico government to cancel the dump proposed near Quitovac, and we urge the Mexican government to work with all concerned and impacted communities and members of the public to find a safe way to handle Mexico’s hazardous waste without poisoning people or the environment and without desecrating the sacred sites of Indigenous peoples.
“We are pleased that the Mexican government has now admitted that their recent claims of local government and US approval of the proposed hazardous waste dump near Quitovac were not true, and it is clear that public pressure and community opposition is forcing the truth to be told. This admission by the Mexican government means the dump project cannot proceed.
“We urge people living near San Francisco , Phoenix and Tucson to join the protests against the proposed toxic dump on October 12, 2006.”
SEMARNAT and the private company CEGIR (Centro de Gestion Integral de Residuos S.A.) planned the dump, known as Servicios Ambientales La Choya and ''La Cholla.”
Tohono O’odham Chair Vivian Juan-Saunders has not commented on the dump.
On Indigenous Peoples Day, there will be a protest in San Francisco at the Office of Mexico’s Consulate, Thursday, Oct. 12.
The October 12th Indigenous Peoples Day Action is sponsored by:
O’odham Rights Cultural and Environmental Justice Coalition, International Indian Treaty Council, Indigenous Environmental Network & Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice.

For more information: Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice (415)248-5010
International Indian Treaty Council (415) 641-4482
O’odham Rights Cultural and Environmental Justice Coalition (520) 471-3398

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