By Karim Oswaldo Duarte Nafarrate, María Marcela Rascón González,
and Reyna Selina Valenzuela Rendón*

According to tribal leaders, the economic, ecological, and social stability of the Yaqui tribe is being threatened by the construction of the Sonora Sí (Sonora Yes!) project that is being imposed within its territory with the backing of the state governnent.

“The aqueduct is an unfair, illegal project, supported by the federal government,” says Juan Piña, Yaqui tribal governor, expressing his concern about the situation in the country and especially in the state of Sonora.

He is referring to the Acueducto Independencia (Independence Aqueduct), the largest engineering project in state history. The pipeline, under construction to bring water from the Río Yaqui to Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora, is the central part of state governor Guillermo Padrés Elias’ six-year project, called Sonora Sí.

Even as tribal governor Piña spoke out against the aqueduct, the physical work advanced eight percent in April 2012, and Gov. Padrés Elias in turn said, “The Acueducto Independencia is a fact.”

“When the work is done, water will flow at 634 gallons per second through 81 miles of pipeline between El Novillo Dam and Hermosillo,” said Padrés.

“I see it as an emblematic project, historic for Sonora, and now moving forward, without any doubt, very important for the development and growth of Sonora, for the capital, not just of the municipality, but for Sonora,” he said.

However, engineer Tomás Rojo, coordinator of the Yaqui Defense Brigade , says the purpose of the Sonora Sí project is not only to serve the interests of Gov. Padrés and President Felipe Calderón, but also of economic interests in other countries.

“As long as there is a scarcity of water in the Yaqui Valley, foreigners will have the opportunity to export their products to Mexico,” he said, referring to the fact that the valley is one of the country’s main agricultural areas.

Given that Yaqui tribal members have first rights to the water from the Yaqui River, the tribal authority has filed for legal protection, and
Journalism to Raise Environmental Awareness
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“Independence” Aqueduct Threatens to Increase Yaqui Dependence

so in reality, the aqueduct is far from being “a given,” said Mario Luna, Yaqui Tribal Defense Secretary.

The Yaqui River area used to be an oasis. The lack of water today is shameful, he says. Completing the construction of the Independence Aqueduct will make the situation worse, he adds.

In previous years, the tribe tried to help the towns of Empalme and Guaymas by allowing the construction of an aqueduct to supply the needs of the populations of these communities, he recalls.

However, that construction benefited only the tourist area of San Carlos. This is one of many reasons that 98% of the Yaqui people are not willing to accept the current project that the state government wants to impose, he says.

The state governor stressed that the coordination and support of the Calderón administration, the mayor of Hermosillo, and federal representatives have helped to advance one of the key elements of the integral program Sonora Sí.

By contrast, Luna states “they never sought dialog with us.”

*Students, COBACH Preparatory School, Obregón No. 2.

Mario Luna (left), Juan Piña (center), and other Yaqui officials in Vícam, Sonora met to declare their opposition to the Acueducto Independencia.
(Photo: Kenya Cuén,  COBACH, Quetchehueca)
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