Aerial view of Xochimilco wetland, from Pixabay

Standing up for a Mexico City Ramsar site

In September 2020, Valeria Hernández contacted us from a Ramsar Site in Mexico City. The City had started building a six-lane highway bridge that would cut the protected wetland at Xochimilco in two. Ms Hernández is a local activists and she asked for WWN’s support.

WWN does not have a sub-regional representative in Mexico; but our network is well-connected in the region. We held online meetings not just with Ms. Hernández; but also scientists at the Living Lakes Network and the catchments network Red Mexicana de Cuencas; we met legal experts from AIDA; and we shared the story with a news outlet.

As well as being protected under the Ramsar Convention, the wetland at Xochimilco is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is home to unique wet farming culture in its ponds, and to the charismatic axolotl. The on-again-off-again plan to build the road had seemed to be on hold, thanks to the election of a Mayor with strong environmental credentials: Dr. Claudia Sheinbaum had been a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But Mayor Scheinbaum restarted the dormant road-building plan, with added pressure to maintain the economy despite the pandemic. Later, local activists brought this new work to a halt with legal challenges.

But construction had started and the works were heading towards the protected wetland.

Following our research and discussion, the Chair of WWN Louise Duff sent this letter to Mayor Sheinbaum.

The Chair and Committee led this response, including it in monthly meetings as well as email discussions. Particular recognition goes to the efforts of Regional Representative Laura Chamberlin, Sub-Regional Representatives Felipe VelascoPatricio Guerrero, and Youth Representative Elise Allely.