Environmental Groups Launch Fund for Mexican Communities

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have established a fund of one million pesos (US$100,000) to promote renewable energy in the communities surrounding Laguna San Ignacio in Baja, Mexico.

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have established a fund of one million pesos (US$100,000) to promote renewable energy in the communities surrounding Laguna San Ignacio in Baja, Mexico.

The two groups have worked for five years with Mexican environmentalists to stop Mitsubishi and its Mexican government partner from converting the lagoon into the world’s largest industrial salt facility. The campaign ended last March when the Mexican government announced the cancellation of the proposed salt facility. The lagoon is the last undisturbed nursery for the Pacific gray whale.

“We hope that our funding will help to create an environmentally sustainable future for Punta Abreojos and the other communities that were most threatened by the proposed Laguna San Ignacio salt works,” says Jared Blumenfeld of IFAW. “These communities are an inspiration to us all – they had everything to lose and yet they stood up to the world’s largest corporation to protect their children’s future.”

The new fund will be used to undertake feasibility studies for oyster aquaculture and renewable energy, and to support specific measures to improve health and education in the communities.

“Opposition by the community of Punta Abreojos was a pivotal factor in concluding what had become the most publicized environmental debate in Mexico’s history,” adds Beatriz Bugeda Bernal of IFAW. “IFAW and NRDC are creating this fund to help Punta Abreojos and other communities around the lagoon, which opposed the salt works, create environmentally sustainable economic opportunities.”

The organizations provided legal assistance to the Punta Abreojos fishing cooperative to delineate their fishing rights, funded the construction of an addition to a community school, and organized English language classes for community members eager to participate in the growing whale-watching eco-tourism of the area.

NRDC and IFAW expressed disappointment over the failure of the former Mexican administration to fulfill a pledge to provide financial support to alternative sustainable development projects in Laguna de San Ignacio. Instead, the Government has created a fund of $2.5 million that will be spent over a much larger area in the northern Pacific. The communities of Laguna San Ignacio will have to compete with many other applicants to obtain funds. The current status of these funds is not clear.

“It has been almost a year and the communities have yet to see evidence of the Mexican Government’s intent to make good on its promises,” says Jacob Scherr of NRDC. “We do hope the Fox Administration will move quickly to provide funds for sustainable projects in these communities.”

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