The Intermunicipal Initiative for Integrated Management of the Ayuquila River Basin (IIGICRA) began in 1998 when the communities along the banks of the Ayuquila River demanded that the sugar industry cease illegal dumping of pollutants. The industry has been responsible for a series of environmental catastrophes. The worst was in 1995, a major spill of molasses in the waterway on the part of Melchor Ocampo. With an integrated effort, municipalities all along the river have been able to conduct a cooperative cleanup of the banks of the Ayuqila.
Currently, there are two government agencies and 10 city councils that contribute to the Initiative. These two government agencies are both affiliated with the state government of Jalisco: the Biosphere Preservation and the Secretariat of Rural Development. Civil organizations participating in the network include the civil organization called Foundation MABIO, an academic institute affiliated with the University of Guadalajara, and diverse citizen groups that stretch across the 10 municipalities. By involving civil organizations with a vested interest in the Ayuquila River’s environmental health, the Initiative outsources some of the responsibility for cleaning the riverbank to volunteer groups.
The economic and human resources available for improving the river quality have been drawn from the municipal, state, and federal government and from contributions made by private institutions (including the Ford Foundation, USAID and NCCR-Switzerland). The academic sphere has contributed with technical expertise for designing project plans and managing the initative. The Foundation MABIO, the Manantlán Institute of the University of Guadalajara and the Biosphere Preservation leadership have contributed to the overall planning of joint, intermunicipal, and interinstitutional operations in addressing environmental issues along the waterway.
Governmental authorities and civic organizations have met to determine the mission of the Initiative: 1) control of the polluting effluents of the sugar industry; 2) the construction of a water treatment facility in the municipality of Autlán, which will remain in operation permanently, 24 hours a day; 3) maintenance of a Waste Storage Center in El Grullo, where 65% of the population are employed in filtering waste, as well as in Autlán (an additional center will be built in Zapotitlán, in concession to women’s organizations demanding increased poverty alleviation efforts along the river); 4) creation of a Center of Environmental Education in El Limón; 5) water cleaning by riverbank municipalities; 6) shore reclamation projects to transform previously polluted areas into public spaces for recreation; and 7) institution of a program of environmental education for children, teachers, and the public.
The main regional impact of the Intermunicipal Initiative has been the creation of a new institutional framework that promotes resolution of problems of environmental degradation through cross-government cooperation and a high level of citizen participation.