Mexican Farmers Protest

Mexican farmers oppose repayment of water debt to US

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On Sunday, Mexican farmers protested against the authorities to oppose the Mexican government’s decision of water repayment to the US. The farmers said that they needed the water for their crops, while the State government has blocked the water releases from the dam until both the nations discussed the matter on Tuesday. Mexico’s National Water Commission, contesting the farmers claim, said there was enough water for local crops like tree nuts, watermelons, chile, onions and alfalfa, and more.

Mexican government deployed military force at the Las Virgines dam in northern border state of Chihuahua to control the situation. A video posted by congressman Mario Mata Carrasco showed the forces lined up near the dam and throwing tear gas cans at the protestors to disperse them.

About 10 days ago, the International Boundary and Water Commission urged the Mexican authorities to meet its commitment of water repayment as part of the 1944 Water Treaty with the US. As per the bilateral treaty Mexico needs to deliver remaining 432,360 acre-feet of water by October 24, 2020 as it marks the end of the current five-year cycle.

The treaty, known as “Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande,” set the guidelines for exchange of water resources between the neighbouring nations.  As per the agreement, Mexico needs to deliver the water from the tributaries of Rio Grande to the United States and the latter needs to deliver water from Colorado River to Mexico. Two of the main tributaries of the Rio Grande are the Conchos River in Chihuahua, which flows into the Big Bend area, and the Salado River, which flows into Falcon Dam.

The water exchange is tracked based on a five-year cycle. In one five-year cycle, Mexico is required to give 1.75 million acre-feet of water to the United States. The current cycle ends is October 2020 and Mexico is already short of by 432,360 acre-feet, way above the decided average of 350,000 acre-feet of water.

The agreement does not allow two consecutive water deficit, whereas the Mexican government failed to meet the water commitment of the last cycle which ended on October 24, 2015. Hence its mandatory for the Mexican authorities to honour its word with regard to the agreement and pay off its water debt.

The US authorities have been building pressure on Mexican government to repay its remaining water debt and warned that if Mexican government failed to meet the set target, then it could lead to “intense negotiations”.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has expressed his willingness to make the debt payment as earlier this year, President Obrador said, “We do not want an international conflict, treaties have to be lived up to. If we have signed a treaty, we have to comply with it.” But when would Mexico start making the repayment is the question US has been asking the authorities.

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