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Lake Chapala

Submission ID: SEM-97-007
Party concerned: Mexico
Date filed: October 10, 1997
Submission Status: Closed

Latest Update: July 14, 2000

The Secretariat determined not to recommend the preparation of a factual record. Under guideline 9.6, the process was terminated.

Summary of the matter addressed in the submission:

The Submitters allege that the Competent Authorities have made omissions in the enforcement of environmental legislation, concerning the citizens’ complaint (denuncia popular) filed on 23 September 1996, “in regard to the Hydrological Basin of the Lerma Santiago River- Lake Chapala.” The complaint was submitted before Profepa “with a view to declaring a state on environmental emergency in the Lake Chapala ecosystem, following administrative proceedings.” According to the Submitters, Profepa “merely processed the receipt and dispatch of a written document, without carrying out the formalities the case required nor the administrative procedures provided by the LGEEPA (General Law on Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection), which should result in an administrative resolution to finalize the procedure and determine whether the submission made before the Mexican Environmental Justice Administration Authority is well founded.”

Summary of the response provided by the Party:

In the response filed in accordance with article 14(3) of the NAAEC, the Party states that the Submission is improper because the Submitters did not exhaust their recourses under Mexican legislation. Mexico explains that the citizen complaint (denuncia popular) is not a recourse but rather an act whereby an individual informs the environmental authority of facts within the latter’s sphere of competence so that the authority may act in accordance with its powers of investigation and sanction. Mexico further holds the Submission to be improper in that the Submitters’ statements are inconsistent with the objectives of the NAAEC, since the Submitters do not state precisely how the alleged omission affects or endangers the environment.

The Party explains various aspects of the citizen complaint procedure, responds to each of the statements made in the Submission, discusses the background and issues relating to Lake Chapala and rebuts the arguments of the Submitters in regard to the supposed failure to effectively enforce the environmental legislation. Mexico points out in its response that “it is pertinent to draw this Commission’s attention to the fact that the substance of the Submission consists of the procedural conditions under which the citizen complaint was presented by the Submitters to the Profepa, whereas the environmental issues relating to Lake Chapala are only adduced as background, and that, as stated, these environmental issues were amply addressed by the environmental authority in the document whereby it gave its response to the citizen complaint (denuncia popular) on 25 September 1998.” Mexico states that “while it is true that the Mexican government failed to observe the 30-day period contemplated in section 193 of the LGEEPA, within which it must notify the complainants of the result of the investigation of the facts and of the measures taken, if any, it is also true that the environmental authority did address the citizen complaint (denuncia popular), and that the delay was merely a result of the need to address the matter thoroughly[…], as well as to obtain the technical analysis from the National Water Commission, without which the Profepa could not have verified or falsified the assertion of an environmental emergency situation in the Lerma-Santiago basin and Lake Chapala…” The Party states that from the research conducted, “it may be concluded that the water of Lake Chapala is of a quality to permit its use as potable water, and for agricultural, fishing and recreational purposes, and that, contrary to the statements of the Submitters in their citizen complaint, although there do exist some environmental problems in the lake, it is not in a situation of ecological emergency, as stated in the response to the complaint.” The Party also states that the environmental authority processed the citizen complaint in accordance with the LGEEPA, adhering to the principles of law and respecting the guarantees of hearing and petition contemplated in the Mexican Constitution.

Names and citations of the environmental laws in question:

1. Articles 189 to 194 of the 1988 of the General Law on Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection, prior to the amendments (Ley General del Equilibrio Ecol├│gico y la Protecci├│n al Ambiente)
2. Articles 2, 62 and 53 of the Internal Regulations of the Semarnap dated 8 July 1996


Instituto de Derecho Ambiental

Submission Timeline

October 10, 1997

The Secretariat received a submission and began a preliminary analysis of it under the guidelines.

Submission - Submission authored by Submitter(s) on 10/10/1997

Acknowledgement - Other document authored by Secretariat on 10/12/1997

October 10, 1997

The Secretariat began reviewing the submission under Article 14(1)

October 2, 1998

The Secretariat determined that the submission met the criteria of Article 14(1) and requested a response from the concerned government Party in accordance with Article 14(2).

Determination - Secretariat Determination under Article 14 (1) and 14 (2) authored by Secretariat on 02/10/1998

December 15, 1998

The Secretariat received a response from the concerned government Party and began considering whether to recommend a factual record.

Party Response - Response from the Party under Article 14 (3) authored by Mexico on 14/12/1998

Acknowledgement - Other document authored by Secretariat on 21/04/1999

July 14, 2000

The Secretariat determined not to recommend the preparation of a factual record. Under guideline 9.6, the process was terminated.

Determination - Secretariat Determination under Article 15 (1) authored by Secretariat on 14/07/2000