WASHINGTON - August 19 - The Sierra Club announced today that it will fund a new bi-national effort to address devastating lead contamination caused by the American Smelting and Refinery Company (ASARCO) in El Paso and Cuidad Juárez. The Organización Popular Independiente, A.C. and the El Paso Group of the Sierra Club are among 10 environmental projects receiving grants awarded by the Sierra Clubs Beyond the Borders - Mexico Project, which works to strengthen grassroots environmental and community groups in Mexico.
During ASARCOs 112 years of operation it emitted hundreds of tons of lead, arsenic and cadmium, contaminating neighborhoods in both El Paso and Juárez. The El Paso and Juárez groups will coordinate a bi-national effort to raise public awareness of health and environmental problems in the area around the smelter and to ensure that public and industry officials are held accountable for clean up.
"Pollution doesnt recognize borders," said Jenny Martínez, Sierra Club Program Officer. "To ensure healthy air, land and water we must work together bi-nationally. We cannot protect our shared environment unless we develop effective relationships between Mexican community groups and Sierra Club members along the border."
The following groups also received funding for activities ranging from ensuring safe drinking water, to training rural farmers in agro-ecology techniques, and combating illegal dumping and garbage burning. Five of the 10 projects are based in border cities:
Aqua XXI, A.C. in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua; Centro de Estudios Fronterizos y de Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, A.C. in Ciudad Reynosa, Tamaulipas; Cobanares Federación Estatal de Sociedades de Solidaridad Social in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora; Consultoría Técnica Comunitaria, A.C. in Chihuahua, Chihuahua; Instituto Fronterizo de Estudios para el Desarrollo, A.C. in Matamoros, Tamualipas; Organización de Comunidades Pro-Vida Digna in Matamoros, Tamaulipas; Red Fronteriza de Salud y Ambiente, A.C. in Hermosillo, Sonora; Asociación Ecológica Santo Tomás, A.C. in Villahermosa, Tabasco; Instituto Sexto Sol de Acción Comunitaria in Motozintla, Chiapas. See project summaries below.
"Too many U.S. companies have taken their polluting factories south of the border," said Stephen Mills, Director of the Sierra Clubs International Program. "Communities on both sides of the border have the right to a clean environment, so the message were sending to the polluters with these grants is that you can run but you cannot hide."
The application deadline for the next round of grants is October 15, 2004. Mexican and Sierra Club border groups interested in applying for Beyond the Border - Mexico Project grants can find the application and grant guidelines by visiting the Sierra Clubs bilingual web page: www.sierraclub.org/beyondtheborders/mexico/grant.asp
In February of 2001, the Sierra Clubs Board of Directors met with local groups in Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Tamaulipas to assess the environmental damage inflicted by the rapid industrialization of the border. The visit prompted the creation of a multi-year project to support Mexican grassroots environmental and community organizations in their fight for environmental justice. In partnership with The Sierra Club Foundation, the Sierra Clubs Beyond the Borders - Mexico Project, including its grant component, was created.
Beyond the Borders Mexico Project Fall 2004 Grantees
Organization: AQUA XX
Project Name: "Continuation: Environmental monitoring and participatory strategies for improving the environment and health in the Colonia Ricardo Flores Magón" Location: Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México
This project provides residents with the knowledge and tools to find their own solutions to poor environmental and health conditions in the Colonia Flores Magón. Residents requested that AQUA XXI use this participatory model because of its success in other colonias.
Organization: Centro de Estudios Fronterizos y de Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, A.C.
Project: "Continuation: Raising Public Awareness and Environmental Justice in the Northeast Border of Mexico"
Location: Reynosa, Tamaulipas, México
This project promotes human and environmental rights on the border. The organization acts as a watchdog group, assisting and advocating for border residents facing health impacts related to local industry and pollution.
Organization: Cobanaras Federación Estatal de Sociedades de Solidaridad Social
Project: "Establishment of School for Health and Environmental Community Promoters"
Location: Hermosillo, Sonora, México
This project will establish a school for community health and environmental promoters. This is the second phase of a previous Beyond the Borders - Mexico grant project, which trained 18 women from local organizations to be local environmental health promoters. The training helped residents connect local environmental quality and family health.
Organization: CONTEC - Consultoría Técnica Comunitaria, A.C.
Project: "Social Participation and Technological Change in the Sierra Tarahumara"
Location: Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México
Over the last two winters in workshops funded by the Beyond the Borders - Mexico Project, CONTEC helped ejido farmers develop ecological codes, provided information on soil and water conservation, the use of sustainable farm technology, and community development based on the realities of indigenous institutions and culture. The current grant will fund the production of three manuals compiling information from the workshops for farmers, community outreach workers, technicians, and teachers.
Organization: Instituto Fronterizo de Esutdios para el Desarrollo, A.C.
Project: "Continuation: Center for Community Organization and Participation"
Location: Matamoros, Tamaulipas, México
With a Beyond the Borders grant last year, this group established a Community Training and Organization Center where people living in and around landfills (pepenadores) have found a practical use for the thousands of tires that are dumped each year by making soles for huarache sandals from them. The center provides training for residents and has supported the formation of a cooperative.
Organization: Organización de Comunidades Pro-Vida Digna
Project: "Continuation: Reforestation and Cleanup of 20 de noviembre Drain"
Location: Matamoros, Tamaulipas, México
This project will continue the reforestation around the 20 de noviembre drainage system, the management and promotion of cleanup by the relevant municipal authorities, and continue work with surrounding communities.
Organization: Red Fronteriza de Salud y Ambiente, A.C.
Project: "Community Monitoring of Sonora River Water Quality"
Location: Hermosillo, Sonora, México
The Sonora river watershed is the principal source of water for the residents of Hermosillo (capital of the state of Sonora) and the semi-desert zone of Sonora. The watershed is being contaminated by polluted runoff from sewage and agricultural and mining activities. This project will provide environmental education to 14 high schools in 8 municipalities of the Sonora river region. Through public education RFSA hopes to pressure the relevant authorities to clean up the river and hold the polluters accountable.
Organization: Asociación Ecológica Santo Tomás A.C.
Project: "Community Environmental School in Southeastern Mexico"
Location: Villahermosa, Tabasco, México
Asociación Ecológica Santo Tomás is working with the communities that are negatively affected by the petroleum drilling and processing plants that have surged in the region since the signing of NAFTA. The communities have organized themselves, forming Environmental Watch Groups, and have confronted the polluting entities with varying degrees of success. This project will provide training in environmental laws and regulations so that the community groups have the tools and knowledge to demand accountability from the industries that are not complying with the established laws and the authorities who are not being held accountable for enforcing the laws.
Organization: Instituto Sexto Sol de Acción Comunitaria
Project: "Sustainable Food Production: Permanent facilities to promote Sustainable Agriculture, Environmental Education and Reforestation"
Location: Motozintla, Chiapas, México
This project provides permaculture and organic horticulture training free of charge to small-scale peasant farmers, students, health promoters and other community members as a way to eradicate malnutrition and promote economic self-sufficiency. The farm shows government agencies that food self-sufficiency can be better achieved through the diversification of crops produced without chemicals rather than the old green-revolution method of relying on chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides. The project also supports community access to education as an important means of reducing poverty and empowering people to conserve natural resources.
El Paso Group of the Sierra Club; Rio Grande Chapter
Project: Lead Contamination Accountability Project
Location: El Paso, Texas
The Lead Contamination Accountability Project will address lead and arsenic contamination in residential areas on both sides of the US-Mexico border around a smelter operated by American Smelting and Refinery Company of El Paso (ASARCO). The project will seek clean up and appropriate health care for residents on both sides of the border.
Organización Popular Independiente, A.C.
Project: Environmental Health as a Citizens Right: Health problems caused by the environmental contamination, especially lead
Location: Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México
This project will raise public awareness of environmental health problems posed by ASARCO, especially lead contamination, in the Felipe Angeles colonia and its extensions. The project will determine the breadth and scope of the health problems in the community, form a neighborhood committee of community promoters and recognized community leaders, provide training on environmental health and social leadership, and with the participation of the Sierra Club group in El Paso, develop public awareness campaigns within the communities and identify and solidify local networks of leaders and activists.